Lone Star Planet
Chapter 9

Public Domain

The trial got started the next morning with a minimum amount of objections from Sidney. The charges and specifications were duly read, the three defendants pleaded not guilty, and then Goodham advanced with a paper in his hand to address the court. Sidney scampered up to take his position beside him.

“Your Honor, the prosecution wishes, subject to agreement of the defense, to enter the following stipulations, to wit: First, that the late Silas Cumshaw was a practicing politician within the meaning of the law. Second, that he is now dead, and came to his death in the manner attested to by the coroner of Sam Houston Continent. Third, that he came to his death at the hands of the defendants here present.”

In all my planning, I’d forgotten that. I couldn’t let those stipulations stand without protest, and at the same time, if I protested the characterization of Cumshaw as a practicing politician, the trial could easily end right there. So I prayed for a miracle, and Clement Sidney promptly obliged me.

“Defense won’t stipulate anything!” he barked. “My clients, here, are victims of a monstrous conspiracy, a conspiracy to conceal the true facts of the death of Silas Cumshaw. They ought never to have been arrested or brought here, and if the prosecution wants to establish anything, they can do it by testimony, in the regular and lawful way. This practice of free-wheeling stipulation is only one of the many devices by which the courts of this planet are being perverted to serve the corrupt and unjust ends of a gang of reactionary landowners!”

Judge Nelson’s gavel hit the bench with a crack like a rifle shot.

“Mr. Sidney! In justice to your clients, I would hate to force them to change lawyers in the middle of their trial, but if I hear another remark like that about the courts of New Texas, that’s exactly what will happen, because you’ll be in jail for contempt! Is that clear, Mr. Sidney?”

I settled back with a deep sigh of relief which got me, I noticed, curious stares from my fellow Ambassadors. I disregarded the questions in their glances; I had what I wanted.

They began calling up the witnesses.

First, the doctor who had certified Ambassador Cumshaw’s death. He gave a concise description of the wounds which had killed my predecessor. Sidney was trying to make something out of the fact that he was Hickock’s family physician, and consuming more time, when I got up.

“Your Honor, I am present here as amicus curiae, because of the obvious interest which the Government of the Solar League has in this case...”

“Objection!” Sidney yelled.

“Please state it,” Nelson invited.

“This is a court of the people of the planet of New Texas. This foreign emissary of the Solar League, sent here to conspire with New Texan traitors to the end that New Texans shall be reduced to a supine and ravished satrapy of the all-devouring empire of the Galaxy--”

Judge Nelson rapped sharply.

“Friends of the court are defined as persons having a proper interest in the case. As this case arises from the death of the former Ambassador of the Solar League, I cannot see how the present Ambassador and his staff can be excluded. Overruled.” He nodded to me. “Continue, Mr. Ambassador.”

“As I understand, I have the same rights of cross-examination of witnesses as counsel for the prosecution and defense; is that correct, Your Honor?” It was, so I turned to the witness. “I suppose, Doctor, that you have had quite a bit of experience, in your practice, with gunshot wounds?”

He chuckled. “Mr. Ambassador, it is gunshot-wound cases which keep the practice of medicine and surgery alive on this planet. Yes, I definitely have.”

“Now, you say that the deceased was hit by six different projectiles: right shoulder almost completely severed, right lung and right ribs blown out of the chest, spleen and kidneys so intermingled as to be practically one, and left leg severed by complete shattering of the left pelvis and hip-joint?”

“That’s right.”

I picked up the 20-mm auto-rifle--it weighed a good sixty pounds--from the table, and asked him if this weapon could have inflicted such wounds. He agreed that it both could and had.

“This the usual type of weapon used in your New Texas political liquidations?” I asked.

“Certainly not. The usual weapons are pistols; sometimes a hunting-rifle or a shotgun.”

I asked the same question when I cross-examined the ballistics witness.

“Is this the usual type of weapon used in your New Texas political liquidations?”

“No, not at all. That’s a very expensive weapon, Mr. Ambassador. Wasn’t even manufactured on this planet; made by the z’Srauff star-cluster. A weapon like that sells for five, six hundred pesos. It’s used for shooting really big game--supermastodon, and things like that. And, of course, for combat.”

“It seems,” I remarked, “that the defense is overlooking an obvious point there. I doubt if these three defendants ever, in all their lives, had among them the price of such a weapon.”

That, of course, brought Sidney to his feet, sputtering objections to this attempt to disparage the honest poverty of his clients, which only helped to call attention to the point.

Then the prosecution called in a witness named David Crockett Longfellow. I’d met him at the Hickock ranch; he was Hickock’s butler. He limped from an old injury which had retired him from work on the range. He was sworn in and testified to his name and occupation.

“Do you know these three defendants?” Goodham asked him.

“Yeah. I even marked one of them for future identification,” Longfellow replied.

Sidney was up at once, shouting objections. After he was quieted down, Goodham remarked that he’d come to that point later, and began a line of questioning to establish that Longfellow had been on the Hickock ranch on the day when Silas Cumshaw was killed.

“Now,” Goodham said, “will you relate to the court the matters of interest which came to your personal observation on that day.”

Longfellow began his story. “At about 0900, I was dustin’ up and straightenin’ things in the library while the Colonel was at his desk. All of a sudden, he said to me, ‘Davy, suppose you call the Solar Embassy and see if Mr. Cumshaw is doin’ anything today; if he isn’t, ask him if he wants to come out.’ I was workin’ right beside the telescreen. So I called the Solar League Embassy. Mr. Thrombley took the call, and I asked him was Mr. Cumshaw around. By this time, the Colonel got through with what he was doin’ at the desk and came over to the screen. I went back to my work, but I heard the Colonel askin’ Mr. Cumshaw could he come out for the day, an’ Mr. Cumshaw sayin’, yes, he could; he’d be out by about 1030.

“Well, ‘long about 1030, his air-car came in and landed on the drive. Little single-seat job that he drove himself. He landed it about a hundred feet from the outside veranda, like he usually did, and got out.

“Then, this other car came droppin’ in from outa nowhere. I didn’t pay it much attention; thought it might be one of the other Ambassadors that Mr. Cumshaw’d brung along. But Mr. Cumshaw turned around and looked at it, and then he started to run for the veranda. I was standin’ in the doorway when I seen him startin’ to run. I jumped out on the porch, quick-like, and pulled my gun, and then this auto-rifle begun firin’ outa the other car. There was only eight or ten shots fired from this car, but most of them hit Mr. Cumshaw.”

Goodham waited a few moments. Longfellow’s voice had choked and there was a twitching about his face, as though he were trying to suppress tears.

“Now, Mr. Longfellow,” Goodham said, “did you recognize the people who were in the car from which the shots came?”

“Yeah. Like I said, I cut a mark on one of them. That one there: Jack-High Abe Bonney. He was handlin’ the gun, and from where I was, he had his left side to me. I was tryin’ for his head, but I always overshoot, so I have the habit of holdin’ low. This time I held too low.” He looked at Jack-High in coldly poisonous hatred. “I’ll be sorry about that as long as I live.”

“And who else was in the car?”

“The other two curs outa the same litter: Switchblade an’ Turkey-Buzzard, over there.”

Further questioning revealed that Longfellow had had no direct knowledge of the pursuit, or the siege of the jail in Bonneyville. Colonel Hickock had taken personal command of that, and had left Longfellow behind to call the Solar League Embassy and the Rangers. He had made no attempt to move the body, but had left it lying in the driveway until the doctor and the Rangers arrived.

Goodham went to the middle table and picked up a heavy automatic pistol.

“I call the court’s attention to this pistol. It is an eleven-mm automatic, manufactured by the Colt Firearms Company of New Texas, a licensed subsidiary of the Colt Firearms Company of Terra.” He handed it to Longfellow. “Do you know this pistol?” he asked.

Longfellow was almost insulted by the question. Of course he knew his own pistol. He recited the serial number, and pointed to different scars and scratches on the weapon, telling how they had been acquired.

“The court accepts that Mr. Longfellow knows his own weapon,” Nelson said. “I assume that this is the weapon with which you claim to have shot Jack-High Abe Bonney?”

It was, although Longfellow resented the qualification.

“That’s all. Your witness, Mr. Sidney,” Goodham said.

Sidney began an immediate attack.

Questioning Longfellow’s eyesight, intelligence, honesty and integrity, he tried to show personal enmity toward the Bonneys. He implied that Longfellow had been conspiring with Cumshaw to bring about the conquest of New Texas by the Solar League. The verbal exchange became so heated that both witness and attorney had to be admonished repeatedly from the bench. But at no point did Sidney shake Longfellow from his one fundamental statement, that the Bonney brothers had shot Silas Cumshaw and that he had shot Jack-High Abe Bonney in the shoulder.

When he was finished, I got up and took over.

 
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