“Joshua, are you aware of the consequences of armed robbery? You’re facing a long time in prison if convicted,” the detective says.
He slumps down in his chair, hangs his head and replies, “Yes, but I didn’t commit the crime. I don’t own a handgun,” he snaps.
The brightly-lit station is small. The odor of stale smoke lingers and the white Venetian blinds are discolored.
Joshua is seated on the edge of a wooden chair. His long legs are outstretched and trembling hands dangle over the armrests.
The detective points his finger at him and booms, “your description and vehicle match exactly with what the cashier gave us.” The swivel chair cracks loudly from the weight when he stands. His steel blue eyes narrow and he continues, “further more neighbors spotted you at the “Quick-Mart minutes before 911 was notified.”
His entire body violently shaking Joshua manages to reply, “I told you I stopped for coffee before going up to the lake fishing for the night. I was there until dawn.”
“You have no witnesses of your whereabouts. The chance of you walking away from this is a free man is slim.”
Joshua shuffles his feet and the screech of rubber echoes. “This is a big mistake and I’ll prove it somehow.” He answers nervously.
The detectives’ short black hair is sticking straight up. “You better get yourself a darn good lawyer. I will be watching you so don’t try any funny business you hear?”
Joshua nods, rises and pulls the gray pocket t-shirt down over his black cotton twill shorts. “I’ll be finding the best lawyer this state has.” He replies with determination.
Jordan, his twin brother, is outside in the car waiting on him. He’s slouched down in the seat with his hat pulled over his face as if asleep.
“Come on lets get out of here, it don’t like good for me.” He tells Jordon. “I sure wish you had gone fishing with me that night .”
“I usually do but had other things to do Joshua. Do you want me to take you home?”
“First I want to stop at the Quick-Mart.”
“Are you crazy?”
Joshua strolls to the rear of the store, grabs a case of Pepsi and takes it to the front. He reaches in his pocket and finds he left his cash at home.
The clerk quickly turns and begins shoving papers to the back of a shelf that’s behind him and mumbles, “I’ll be with you in a second.”
“I’ll be paying with a credit card” he says, and shove it toward the clerk who identified him.
He keeps his head bowed and snatches the card with his left hand, swipes it through the machine, slides the receipt and the card back to Joshua. Not a word is said. He’s making small swooshing motion with his hand.
Back home, Joshua takes the newspaper clipping out of the roll-top desk and reads if for the hundredth time. He moans, “this is all wrong” and replaces it in the bottom drawer.
He plops on the blue plush sofa and sighs. He begins to wonder if maybe Jordon didn’t have something to do with this. First he never turns down a fishing trip and he doesn’t seem concerned about the whole situation. He kept himself hide at the police station and didn’t want to stop at the store.
Joshua shakes his head and grumbles, “what I’m I thinking my own brother wouldn’t do that to me.” Then lifts the antique replica phone off the receiver.
“Hi, this is Joshua Rhoades. I’m looking to hire Mr. Spades to defend me.”
On the other end a high pitched female voice replies, “could you come into the office tomorrow morning around nine?
“I’ll be there.” Joshua slowly replaces the phone in the cradle and his large green eyes fixate on the towering oak tree in the front yard.
“Hey Josh, you okay?” Jordon ask, “I’ve been knocking for some time.”
“Yeah, I’m just sitting here thinking. There’s something odd about that clerk and I’m going to find out myself what he’s up to. While I was at the Mart he scurried to close the back door and when waiting on me I heard the squeal of the door opening and he discreetly waved his arm.
The following night Joshua went to the Quick-Mart and watched form the edge of the woods. The back door was propped open with milk crates. He watched as people came and went without packages.
“I was right.” He tells Jordon later.
“There’s some kind of business going on during the night. They use the rear entrance of the store. I saw guys going in exchanging money and nothing being carried out. They left using a path throug the woods. I’m going to see where it leads. Do you wanna go with me?”
Jordon stammers, “Well I guess I’ll go with you but I’m not crazy about the idea. We better leave now though because the sun is setting.”
They walk the few blocks to the dead end Street, above the market and go into to the woods from there.
“Listen I hear footsteps, Josh.”
They jump behind the mountain laurel, hunch down when suddenly a doe and her fawn walk past the bushes and continue into the woods.
At the end of the trail are a dirt road and a small clearing on the other side where a dilapidated shanty sits. Fresh tire tracks lead up to the building.
Twisting his long hair around his finger Jordon gasps, “surely you’re not going to enter the shanty Josh. Someone might be inside.”
With a frown upon his face he replies, “yes I’m going inside.”
They find a wobbly card table with metal folding chairs set up with empty beer cans, and a full pack of Marlboro’s with an ashtray next to them. Joshua pulls out a chair, sits down and looks at his brother and asks, “what was so important you couldn’t go fishing with me that night?”
Jordon spins around and glares at him “are you implying something Joshua? I don’t like your questioning.” He slams his fist on the card table causing it to crash to the floor.
“Boy are you edgy. Lets get out of here and go home.” Joshua snaps back.”
Not a word is spoken until they reach Joshua’s house. “I’ll see you at your hearing next week” Jordon quietly says. Then saunters toward the car.
“Wrong car; remember I put mag wheels on mine so we could tell them apart.” Joshua yells down to Jordon.
Joshua, dressed in a gray pinstriped suit, white dress shirt and black tie, opens the door marked “Courtroom #5. He and Mr. Spade, his attorney, have a discussion before the proceedings begin.
“Your Honor, I’d like to cross-examine the witness.” Mr. Spade says.
“Can you positively identify my client?”
“Is the back door open for any other reason besides to keep the store cooler?”
He hesitates before answering, “No.”
“You were shot in the arm taking money from the register, correct?”
“Would you please show me that arm?”
He rolls the long sleeve shirt up on his right arm and points out the small scar.
Mr. Spade picks up a pen and blank piece of paper. He places it down by the witness and says, “writes your name for me please.”
He takes the pen in his left hand and signs, “Keith DiFlores.”
“Now I’d like to know how you were shot in that arm when you’re a lefty?”
His face pales and beads of water for on his forehead. He twirls the watch around his small wrist. “I...I don’t know.”
“Is it true that you stole the money to pay off a gambling debt, then shot yourself to make it look like a robbery?”
There’s no reply.
“Also, are you not a bookie and used the rear entrance to take bets?”
He hangs his head and nod up and down, then looks over at Joshua and says, “I’m sorry man, really I didn’t mean you any harm.