Lone Star Planet
Chapter 8

Public Domain

A couple of New Texas Ranger tanks met the Embassy car four blocks from the Statehouse and convoyed us into the central plaza, where the barbecue had been held on the Friday afternoon that I had arrived on New Texas. There was almost as dense a crowd as the last time I had seen the place; but they were quieter, to the extent that there were no bands, and no shooting, no cowbells or whistles. The barbecue pits were going again, however, and hawkers were pushing or propelling their little wagons about, vending sandwiches. I saw a half a dozen big twenty-foot teleview screens, apparently wired from the courtroom.

As soon as the Embassy car and its escorting tanks reached the plaza, an ovation broke out. I was cheered, with the high-pitched yipeee! of New Texans and adjured and implored not to let them so-and-sos get away with it.

There was a veritable army of Rangers on guard at the doors of the courtroom. The only spectators being admitted to the courtroom seemed to be prominent citizens with enough pull to secure passes.

Inside, some of the spectators’ benches had been removed to clear the front of the room. In the cleared space, there was one bulky shape under a cloth cover that seemed to be the air-car and another cloth-covered shape that looked like a fifty-mm dual-purpose gun. Smaller exhibits, including a twenty-mm auto-rifle, were piled on the friends-of-the-court table. The prosecution table was already occupied--Colonel Hickock, who waved a greeting to me, three or four men who looked like well-to-do ranchers, and a delegation of lawyers.

“Samuel Goodham,” Parros, beside me, whispered, indicating a big, heavy-set man with white hair, dressed in a dark suit of the cut that had been fashionable on Terra seventy-five years ago. “Best criminal lawyer on the planet. Hickock must have hired him.”

There was quite a swarm at the center table, too. Some of them were ranchers, a couple in aggressively shabby workclothes, and there were several members of the Diplomatic Corps. I shook hands with them and gathered that they, like myself, were worried about the precedent that might be established by this trial. While I was introducing Hoddy Ringo as my attaché extraordinary, which was no less than the truth, the defense party came in.

There were only three lawyers--a little, rodent-faced fellow, whom Parros pointed out as Clement Sidney, and two assistants. And, guarded by a Ranger and a couple of court-bailiffs, the three defendants, Switchblade Joe, Jack-High Abe and Turkey-Buzzard Tom Bonney. There was probably a year or so age different from one to another, but they certainly had a common parentage. They all had pale eyes and narrow, loose-lipped faces. Subnormal and probably psychopathic, I thought. Jack-High Abe had his left arm in a sling and his left shoulder in a plaster cast. The buzz of conversation among the spectators altered its tone subtly and took on a note of hostility as they entered and seated themselves.

The balcony seemed to be crowded with press representatives. Several telecast cameras and sound pickups had been rigged to cover the front of the room from various angles, a feature that had been missing from the trial I had seen with Gail on Friday.

Then the judges entered from a door behind the bench, which must have opened from a passageway under the plaza, and the court was called to order.

The President Judge was the same Nelson who had presided at the Whately trial and the first thing on the agenda seemed to be the selection of a new board of associate judges. Parros explained in a whisper that the board which had served on the previous trial would sit until that could be done.

A slip of paper was drawn from a box and a name was called. A man sitting on one of the front rows of spectators’ seats got up and came forward. One of Sidney’s assistants rummaged through a card file he had in front of him and handed a card to the chief of the defense. At once, Sidney was on his feet.

 
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