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3rd SEASON ROUND ROBIN


Chapter 9

by Janet Rivenbark


The first thing Joe did the next morning when he got to the office was have one of the interns pull the file on “John Doe, a.k.a. Mouse”. He read it over and found Diana had been straight with him, not that he doubted it. Mouse was going to be transferred to Bellevue for evaluation that afternoon, and if previous experience held, it would be at least seventy two hours before they got any answers from the docs there; he’d have plenty of time to talk to Maggie Turnbull. He just had to come up with a story. He called Diana and she came to his office. They put their heads together and came up with something plausible.

His next call was to Maggie. She told him to come right over.

Judge Margaret Turnbull sat back in her oversized leather office chair and tapped the papers spread out on her desk with a pencil as she thought. She’d read the whole file, and Joe was now waiting on the inevitable questions. He sat on the edge of his chair on the other side of the desk and tried to look like he wasn’t as impatient as he was feeling.

She pulled two photos out of the file and looked from one to the other.

“Why two mug shots?” she asked.

“He was picked up twice on the same day. The first officer, Julia McCart, picked him up outside a jewelry store after a citizen made a complaint and said he’d been loitering for some time. Officer McCart stated in her report that she could tell that he didn’t mean any harm, so she turned him loose with a warning. That is the mug shot where he is smiling. The second one was taken later after he was arrested for allegedly trying to steal a generator from a work site in the park and then assaulting an NYPD uniformed officer when he was discovered.”

“And you want him released?” she asked incredulously.

“He really is harmless. I recognized the photos when I was reviewing the file.” Joe felt a twinge of guilt at the lie. “I made some calls. Cathy Chandler knew him. She helped him find work doing odd jobs for her friends. He doesn’t appear to be too bright, but from her stories and those of some others, he is apparently very gifted mechanically. He picks up discarded things from the trash and dumpsters and either fixes them and sells them or uses the parts to fix or build other things,” Joe told her, using the information he’d learned Below and from Diana.

“Where does he live?” she asked, noting that there was no address in the file.

“I don’t really know.” Another lie. “No one has reported him missing.”

“You bucking for a new job, Maxwell,” asked the older woman with a wry smile.

“What job?” he asked, puzzled.

“Public Defender?”

Joe laughed. “No, it’s nothing like that. I know that as DA I’m supposed to want to prosecute and convict the bad guys, and I really do; but this kid isn’t one of them. I’m sure that keeping him locked up either in prison or in a mental ward will do more harm than good. I don’t really think he was trying to steal that generator. From what Cathy told me, he was probably trying to figure out how it worked. Besides, the damn thing must weigh a couple hundred pounds. He couldn’t have moved it.”

“OK, I’ll buy that one, but what about the assault on the officer?”

That one was easier. “I would take a guess and say he was frightened and just reacted without thinking.”

“If that defense worked, there would be a lot more acquittals on the records,” Maggie pointed out.

“Yeah, but in this case, it is probably exactly what happened.” Joe tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. Judge Turnbull recognized the expression and answered the question.

“To be honest, Joe, I’m inclined to agree with you on this, but I still want to see the psych evaluation before I make a decision. When do you expect it?”

“He isn’t being transferred until this afternoon, and they have 72 hours from then. Bellevue is so busy that they usually take the full 72 hours, so I don’t expect to see anything before Monday afternoon.”

She nodded. “And if the evaluation is favorable, then I also want to see him released into the custody of someone responsible,” she told him.

“I’ll check around. Cathy said that he did work for friends of hers, maybe someone knows where he lives or who he lives with if there is someone,” Joe told her.

Maggie looked at the first photo again. “He’s dressed rather eccentrically, but he doesn’t look like he lives on the streets. He’s too clean for that. Find someone who is willing to be responsible for him, and I’ll see what I can do,” Maggie promised.

Joe left her office a few minutes later, feeling much better about the whole thing. Maybe this would work out without him having to completely trash his sense of right and wrong after all. When he got back to his office, he called Diana, who suggested that they both head Below again that evening to pass on the information and see if anyone could come up with a Helper or someone else who would be willing to take responsibility for Mouse.

Joe didn’t go home after work but went straight to Diana’s, and an hour later they were sitting at the council table with Father, Vincent, and the rest of the council.

They had just finished one of William’s excellent dinners; Joe accepted the cup of tea from Mary and groaned as she pushed a plate of cookies in front of him.

“I couldn’t eat another bite,” he lamented as he reached for the delicious looking cookie and bit into it.

Diana rolled her eyes as she watched him devour it.

“Before we get to the subject at hand,” said Joe as he declined a second cookie, “Diana told me that you foraged in garbage cans and trash bins to survive; but unless you got this meal out the back door of ‘21’ Club I’m rather inclined not to believe that. William,” he said, addressing the cook, “your cooking rivals any of the uptown restaurants in the city, and if you are doing this with ingredients found in the trash, then I want your recipes!”

“We have Catherine to thank for that,” admitted William, “but I do the cooking.”

Joe looked at Father for an explanation, but it was Vincent who spoke.

“Not long after her father’s death, Catherine wrote a will. She left detailed instructions on what she wanted her money to do, and she left it up to Peter Alcott to see that it was done. He set up a foundation to provide assistance to our Helpers, and we want for nothing Below. Our children now have the money to go to college Above if that is what they want…”

“She was very generous,” added Father as Vincent’s voice faded.

Joe was a little embarrassed at the emotions he’d brought to the surface with his question, and the silence was starting to become strained when Diana broke it.

“So, now that everyone knows the facts; does anyone have any ideas?”

“I’m glad that Judge Turnbull was willing to listen,” said Joe, thoughtfully, “If we can get one of the shrinks over at Bellevue to agree that Mouse is harmless, and if we can get someone to take responsibility for him, she will agree to dismiss the case.”

“What did you have in mind?” asked Mary, who had been almost silent up to this point.

“Since the corruption debacle last year, scrutiny of the DA’s office has been pretty stringent. Even though I was elected DA in the special election, there are still some who are keeping a very close eye on us. Moreno was my mentor. I went straight from law school to the DA’s office, so I’m really walking the straight and narrow and proving myself all over again. If I do anything suspicious, someone is bound to notice, and then we would all be in deep kimchee. That was why I went to the judge. She was the only way I could think of to do this legally.”

“But we still have to come up with someone who will be willing to take responsibility for Mouse,” pointed out Father. “None of us here Below can, not even those of us who have identities Above, since we have no address, or visible means of support.”

“Do you have any ideas?” asked Vincent, turning to Diana.

“I might,” said Diana. She looked at Father. “Don’t you have a Helper who works in the clerk’s office?”

“Yes, we do, Edna Greene. Why?” he asked.

“Do you think she’d be willing to register some paperwork a little late?”

“What do you mean by late?” asked Joe.

“How old is Mouse?” she asked, turning to Vincent.

“We aren’t sure. Father estimated that he was about five or six when we found him, and that was fifteen years ago,” Vincent answered.

“Then it would be fifteen to twenty years late.”

“What are you thinking?” asked Vincent, who actually was catching on to what she had in mind.

“We give Mouse an identity, and see to it that he belongs to some upstanding family Above, either by birth or adoption, who will vouch for him and agree to be responsible; then Judge Turnbull will have even more reason to go ahead and release him into the custody of that family.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment as they considered the idea, but before anyone could speak they were interrupted by Peter walking into the chamber.

“Jacob,” he began as he entered, “I was wondering if it was too late for a game of chess…” he looked around the room at all those present, surprised to see Joe there, and stopped abruptly. “I’m sorry! Am I interrupting something?”

Diana stood and everyone was surprised at the broad grin on her face. “Absolutely not, Dr. Alcott. In fact, you are just the person I need to talk to.”

* * *

Monday morning, promptly at 8AM, Dr. Peter Alcott walked into the lobby of Diana’s precinct with a worried look on his face and a newspaper in his hand. Diana was conveniently standing right next to the desk sergeant as Peter approached the counter.

“Excuse me,” he said politely. “I was wondering if I could speak to a Detective Brody?”

“I’m sorry, but Brody is off today…” began the Sergeant.

“Maybe I can help,” offered Diana, swinging the gate open and inviting Peter to follow her. “Haven’t we met? During the Catherine Chandler case?”

“Yes,” agreed Peter. “Detective Bennett, isn’t it? Maybe you can help me.”

Once they were seated at Diana’s desk Peter made sure that at least two or three others in the room could hear the story that he told Diana, the one that he and Diana had come up with over the weekend.

“My son has been missing for almost a week…” He began.

“Have you filed a missing person report?” she asked.

“No, I just found out. I’ve been out of town. It’s a long story.”

“Then start at the beginning,” she prompted.

“As I said, I’ve been out of town, and when I came back, my housekeeper was fit to be tied. She said that my son, we call him Mouse, disappeared last week, not long after I left town. She had this newspaper.” He handed her the paper with the account of Mouse’s first arrest in it to Diana, who gave it a cursory glance. “And then I found this in another paper.” It was a second story on Mouse’s second arrest. “I’m just trying to track him down. Is he still in custody? Can I get him out on bail or something?”

“I didn’t know you had a son, Dr. Alcott,” said Diana, giving Peter the opening to continue the story.

“He is adopted. We found him wandering the streets about fifteen years ago, likely abandoned because he is ‘different.’ He does very well in a structured environment. He is more intelligent than he seems, and his engineering skills are phenomenal. He is fascinated by all things mechanical. I see that in the story it is mentioned that he was trying to steal a generator from a work site in the park. He was more likely just trying to figure out how it worked.”

“But he attempted to assault a police officer,” put in Diana.

“Mouse wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said Peter sincerely. “He was probably frightened.”

“Well, your Mouse…does he have a real name?” she asked.

“Arthur,” ad libbed Peter, having a hard time not smiling. “Arthur Alcott.”

“Well, Arthur was in the Tombs, but was transferred to Bellevue on Friday for evaluation. The doctors will make the decision as to whether or not he is competent to stand trial.”

“And after that?” asked Peter in a worried tone.

“If he is competent, then he will be charged and tried and could go to prison for as long as twenty years; they are serious charges.”

“And if he isn’t competent?”

“They will probably keep him in Bellevue or transfer him to a state inpatient facility.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Hire a good lawyer,” she told him. “Unless, of course, you know someone in the DA’s office.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Peter, thoughtfully. “I testified as an expert witness in a case that Joe Maxwell was handling back when he was still a Deputy DA. Do you think that might help?”

“If you want the boy back home with you, then I would give it a try,” she told him.

Peter stood, thanked Diana for her help, and left the building.

His next stop was Joe’s office. Joe was expecting him so he’d made sure his office door was open so he’d hear when Peter arrived.

Right on schedule he heard Peter out at his secretary’s desk.

“I’d like to see Mr. Maxwell please,” he said.

“Do you have an appointment, Mr….?”

“Dr. Peter Alcott, and no, I don’t have an appointment, but this is very important,” he recited his lines perfectly.

“I’m sorry, but Mr. Maxwell doesn’t see anyone without an appointment,” she pulled the appointment book over and looked at the page. “He doesn’t have anything today, but…” she ran her finger across the page. “He can see you day after tomorrow at…”

“Jessie, what’s up?” asked Joe, coming to his door right on cue. “Dr. Alcott? I haven’t seen you in over a year. Is there something I can do for you?” He waved Peter past the secretary’s desk and into his office, where he closed the door and motioned to a chair.

“How did it go with Diana?” he asked quietly, as Peter sat, prepared to stay a few minutes as part of the scenario Diana had come up with.

“Perfectly. She was there like she promised, and I spoke just loud enough that they could hear me at least two desks away.”

“Did you get the paperwork?” asked Joe.

Peter reached inside his suit jacket, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to Joe.

Joe pulled out some papers and inspected them. They were adoption papers for a five year old John Doe, to be renamed Arthur Alcott dated July, 1975, raised seal and all. There was also a medical/psychological evaluation dated several months later for Arthur Alcott.

“I came up with the evaluation myself,” said Peter.

“Where did you get it? You didn’t write it yourself, did you?”

“No, it was from an old file. This child was a lot like Mouse in many ways. If you read it, you will notice that nowhere in the narrative did the evaluating doctor, who was a colleague of mine, mention the child’s name. The only thing that identified it was the file number, written in pencil on the corner. I was clearing files, and this was in a stack to be destroyed. I pulled this, erased the number and penciled in the name.”

“You don’t think that this guy would remember this kid if he was asked, do you?” asked Joe, a little worried.

“No chance of that. He died a few years ago, and by chance this child also died around the same time.”

Joe sat down behind his desk, shaking his head. “I can’t believe that I agreed to this part,” he said.

“I know that this goes against all that you stand for, Joe,” Peter said. “But, once you meet Mouse, I think you will agree that neither prison nor a mental institution is the right place for him; and I can assure you that he will not go unpunished.”

“What will they do?” asked Joe, curious about how the society Below dispensed punishment.

“They have a few things that they do, but Father has a way of making the punishment suit the crime. I’m sure that Mouse will not forget this; and there will not be a repeat.”

“Do you think Father would allow me to have a talk with Mouse. I’d like to make sure that he is impressed with the seriousness of what happened,” said Joe.

“I’m sure he will,” Peter assured him.

“OK, well then. Let’s get this over with,” suggested Joe as he led Peter to the door. He opened it and started to speak as if continuing a conversation.

“I’m sure we can help, Dr. Alcott. If your son’s doctor agrees with the evaluation you just showed me, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just have the doctor at Bellevue fax his recommendation to this office. I can talk to a judge, and we might be able to get your son released to you before the close of business today.”

Peter thanked Joe for his help and then headed for his next stop: Bellevue Hospital.

It took about forty five minutes, and he had to go through a receptionist, two nurses and the doctor’s secretary; but he finally made it into the office of Dr. Abner Winston, the doctor who had been assigned to evaluate Mouse.

“And you say you are the boy’s father?” asked a rather frazzled appearing Dr. Winston.

Peter had almost laughed out loud when he saw Dr. Winston. He was a middle aged man with a ‘mad scientist’ look to him. What hair he still had looked as if he’d been running his hands through it all morning. He wore wire rimmed glasses that had Peter wondering how he could see through the smudges.

“Yes, I am. I adopted him about fifteen years ago. He was abandoned on the streets,” Peter told him.

“And you are aware of his problems? Has he ever seen a doctor for his problems?” Dr. Winston leaned across the desk.

“Dr. Winston, I am a doctor. I have been in private practice for over thirty years. Shortly after I adopted Arthur, or Mouse as we call him, I began to notice that he was a little different. Differences that his previous circumstances didn’t necessarily account for, so I took him to a child psychologist, and this is a copy of his evaluation.” Peter extracted the report from the envelope and handed it to Dr. Winston.

Dr. Winston took the report and Peter watched in fascination as he placed it precisely on the desk before him. He then removed his glasses, polished them with his tie, more or less spreading the smudges into a thin haze, replaced them on his nose and began to read the paper Peter had given him.

Peter waited patiently as he listened to the other man repeat under his breath words and phrases contained in the report.

“Um, yes…yes ‘idiot savant’…yes that could certainly describe him. ‘Language skills at the level of a two year old’…well I would say he speaks better than that now. ‘Underweight for his age’…seems better fed now, except that he is rather short; may be from bad nutrition in early childhood…”

He finally looked up, and Peter could see a look of relief on the doctor’s face. “May I keep a copy of this…um, Dr. Alcott?”

“Certainly,” Peter told him.

Dr. Winston picked the paper up and took it out to his secretary then came back in.

“You said that the DA said that if I faxed my recommendation to him, he might be able to get a judge to allow the boy to be released to you?”

“Yes. I really would like to get him home. He’s more comfortable there, and I really don’t want him here any longer than necessary.”

“I agree. This is no place for someone like him.” Suddenly, Dr. Winston became the professional that all the framed diplomas and certificates on his walls proclaimed him to be. “I saw him first thing this morning, and I’ve already given my notes to my secretary. She should have the report typed up before she goes to lunch. I will see to it that she faxes it to the DA as soon as I have signed it. My report says nearly the same thing as this original evaluation. I said that he was not competent to stand trial; but I felt bad about saying that because I knew I was dooming him to spending time here, or someplace like it, but I did feel that it was better than jail. I hope he gets to go back home with you.” He offered his hand to Peter.

Peter rose and shook Dr. Winston’s hand. “Thank you, Dr. Winston. I hope so too.”

Peter left Bellevue and went straight back home, where he made a few phone calls. He didn’t have patients today, and he hoped that he’d spent his day off productively.

As soon as Joe got the recommendation from Dr. Winston, he headed for Judge Turnbull’s office. An hour later he was back in his office with a court order to have Mouse turned over to Detective Diana Bennett, to be released into the custody of his ‘father,” Dr. Peter Alcott.

Mouse was sitting on a ragged sofa in a dayroom, watching the other people around him watching the flickery black and white picture on the TV. The TV was bolted to a holder that was bolted to the wall about six feet off the floor. Mouse wasn’t watching the TV because it was so high up that it made his neck hurt to watch it.

He’d been here since Friday, or at least he thought it was Friday. It was Monday now. The blackboard on the wall under the TV said that it was.

The people were more interesting than the TV anyway, he decided. No one wanted to talk much, especially not the big guy over by the door; he just frowned at everyone.

Right after breakfast one of the pretty ladies in the white dresses had come for him. She had led him to a door that she unlocked, allowing him through. He had hoped that they were going to let him go home, but instead she had taken him to another room. It reminded him of Father’s study Below, except for the window behind the desk. There were books stacked all over, and it was dusty. The man behind the desk hadn’t looked anything like Father. He had introduced himself as Dr. Winston and had asked Mouse to sit down.

Mouse felt like he’d been in the room answering Dr. Winston’s questions for hours, but when he left, the clock on the wall had said it had been only an hour. The lady in the white dress, Dr. Winston had called her a nurse, had taken him back to the room with the TV and told him to sit down.

Mouse was restless; he didn’t like sitting still for so long; he’d been sitting here since lunch, but the nurses didn’t like it if he walked around too much. It was “Mouse, why don’t you go and sit down with the others?” or “Mouse, where are you going?” He couldn’t even go to the bathroom without someone being interested in it.

He learned quickly that people here were given medicine four times a day: before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and before bed. But he didn’t get medicine…which he figured was probably right, since he wasn’t sick. Father only gave medicine when someone was sick.

He didn’t like it here, but he had decided that it was better than that other place he’d been in. The police officer had called it the ‘Tombs’ but he thought it wasn’t anything like the catacombs. Vincent had once explained about tombs and graves and how they used the catacombs for that. The Tombs was a lot noisier…and it smelled bad…and the food had been awful.

He’d only been there for a couple days and this would be the third day in this new place, but the food was better here, still not as good as what William cooked, but better…and this place smelled better. More like the stuff Mary had used to clean his chamber that time. That other place had smelled a lot like the messes that Arthur sometimes made.

Mouse was watching the man across the room, who was picking his nose, when he heard someone call his name.

“Mouse?”

He looked up and was overjoyed to see Vincent’s friend, Diana, gesturing to him.

He broke into a delighted grin and rushed over to her, but before he could say anything, Diana placed her finger against her lips, signaling him to be quiet. Vincent had taught him that, and he did exactly as she wanted. He just stood in front of her, grinning.

“Mouse,” she said. “My name is Diana Bennett, and I’m here to take you to your father.”

My father? he wondered, as his brow creased and a look of mild confusion came into his eyes. Oh, she must mean Father. Oh boy, Mouse is in trouble now!

He just nodded and followed her out if the room and down the hall to the same place where he had come in. At the door into the main part of the hospital, they stopped at the desk and the guard who sat there checked the name on Mouse’s wrist band against the list he had on a clipboard. When he found a match, he used a pair of blunt plastic scissors, like the children used Below, to cut the band off. He handed him a paper bag and pointed to a door across the hall.

“That’s the clothes you were wearing when you came in,” he was told. “You can change in there. Just leave the clothes you are wearing on the chair.”

Mouse rushed through changing and still had some laces and buttons undone when he left the room, but that didn’t matter; he was going home.

“Aren’t you even going to cuff him?” the guard asked as Diana and Mouse began to walk away.

“No need,” she told the man, “he’s harmless.” She grasped Mouse’s upper arm and led him out.

They went out the ER entrance and down the drive to the unmarked police car that she’d left there.

When they were driving away, Mouse finally spoke.

“Can Mouse talk now?” he asked.

“Yes, Mouse, you can.” She smiled over at him. “How are you?”

“Hungry. Food away from home isn’t good,” he told her earnestly.

“We will have you home in time for dinner,” she assured him.

“Father mad?” he asked after they’d gone a few blocks.

“Yes,” she said truthfully, “but he was more worried about you, I think. He’s going to want to have a long talk with you, I’m sure; and so will Vincent, and there will be punishment. But they are all glad that you are safe and on your way home.”

Mouse was unusually quiet for the rest of the drive to Peter’s house, and all he said when he saw Peter was “Hi.”

Peter was a little worried as he and Diana walked through the tunnels with Mouse a few minutes later. He felt as if Mouse thought he was being escorted to his execution.

Peter put his hand on Mouse’s arm to make him stop.

“Mouse, what is wrong? I thought you would be happy to be going home.”

“Am,” he said emphatically, “but Diana said that Father is mad and that there will be punishment. The last time it was the Silence…it was awful…worse than being in that place they called the Tombs! Mouse’s family was all around, but they wouldn’t talk, not even Vincent. At least in the Tombs Mouse didn’t know anyone to talk to.”

Peter patted the distraught young man’s arm. “Don’t worry, Mouse. After what you’ve been though Above during the last few days, I’m sure that whatever happens now will be trivial in comparison. You’ll live.”

They passed the dining chamber on their way to Father’s study, and Mouse sniffed the air appreciatively.

“Mmmm! Meatloaf. That means there will be mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Diana couldn’t help but laugh a little at the look of ecstasy on Mouse’s face at the thought of dinner.

Mouse was surprised at his reception when they entered Father’s study a few minutes later. First Vincent hugged him, then Father hugged him. Before he knew what hit him, Jamie was hugging him and calling him things like “crazy” and “idiot,” but he could tell she was glad to see him.

“Mouse, Mouse, what are we going to do with you?” asked Father as Mouse managed to unwind Jamie’s arms from around his neck.

“Mouse’s sorry, Father,” he said without his usual confidence as he stood in the middle of the chamber with his head down.

“Will you ever learn?” this from Vincent.

“Mouse has learned!” said Mouse, emphatically, lifting his head and meeting Father’s eyes then Vincent’s.

“What have you learned?” asked Vincent.

“Not to take. Just because it is there doesn’t mean that it isn’t someone else’s. When Mouse lost tool set Catherine gave, Zach found and brought it back. He didn’t keep. He knew it was Mouse’s. Gizmos just left laying around Above aren’t always left for Mouse to find. Only take if it is in the trash, a dumpster or a garbage can.”

Father was stunned by what he had just heard. He looked over at Vincent who appeared to be just as surprised as he was.

“You really understand what you just said, Mouse?” asked Vincent, looking the young man in the eye.

“Yes, Vincent. Mouse understands. Finder’s not always takers, or keepers.”

“Well, then, if you have truly learned from this experience, then I think we can say that you are on ‘probation’ for the next two months. If you behave during that time, then there will be no further punishment. But if you take anything you are not supposed to during that time, or for that matter, ever again, you will be banned from ever going Above again unless you are with someone else. Do you understand, Mouse?”

Mouse stood up straight and looked at Father with only a hint of his usual mischievous grin. “Mouse understands,” he repeated. “No more finding and taking.”

“Good then…” said Father with a sigh of relief. “Then off with you. Go wash up get some dinner. I imagine you are hungry.”

Mouse grinned, then turned and dashed out of the chamber with Jamie right on his heels. Jamie thought she heard him say something, and she hoped it wasn’t what she thought she heard.

“No more finding and taking…unless it is something Mouse really, really needs…like PVC pipe to take the smelly stuff to the Abyss.”

~


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