The magistrate.


Bill was in the business of justice, not retaliation, and she evaluated every case brought before her with the same care and attention.  The problem was, the fishermen against whom fish and game trooper Charlene Taylor, swore out complaints kept saying the same things, over and over again, until they sounded like a sixth grader excusing the loss of his homework.  The engine broke.  The trooper didn’t give us the signal.  My clock stopped.  The bilge pump went out.  The engine broke.  The mechanic got seasick.  The net got caught in the prop.  The engine broke.

So far, Bill had heard every excuse except “My dog ate it,” and it was difficult to summon up the necessary compassion to temper the letter of the law and still enforce it.  Her problem was she had no tolerance for fools, and after sitting on an average of three hundred such cases every summer, along about August most of the fishers looked pretty foolish.

First file, Gary Samidia, fishing over the line, two thousand dollar fine, four points on his fishing license.  Another four and he wouldn’t fish next year.  Eric Redden, nets in the water before the period started.  It was his second time before her that summer and the third time in two years, and she was tired of smelling his unwashed self in her courtroom, which was very small and lacked ventilation.  Three thousand dollars, five hundred suspended, and six points.  Silas Wood, spotted from the air with his nets in the water a good hour after the period on Friday before last.  He’d pled a burst hydraulic line, and had held up a length of tubing that he swore was the guilty party.  Silas, Silas, Silas, you sorry son of a bitch, if you take all the fish before they hit the creeks, there won’t be any left alive to spawn and send chilluns back out to sea. 

Still, Silas had lost his wife two years before and was now the sole support of seven children, all under twelve years of age.  One thousand, seven-hundred fifty suspended, no points, and forty-five hours of community service.  Bill had already talked to the high school principal.  Silas would serve out his sentence in the computer lab there, proctoring the fall semester’s students during the day and at night receiving some tutoring in the finer arts of cyberspace.  Mayor Jim Earl was chivvying the town council into hiring another clerk for City Hall, and Bill was pretty sure he would succeed.

Excerpt from Nothing Gold Can Stay, the third Liam Campbell novel. I’m working the fifth novel in the series now.

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