“You may step down, Mr. Greely,” Judge Hovrel instructed the cowering defendant. After the elderly ghost cautiously made his way back to the defense table, carefully giving Charon wide-berth, Hovrel banged his gavel once and rose from his seat.
“All rise,” bellowed the Bailiff dutifully. Hovrel paused until the spectral audience and official court members rose to their feet, then made his way slowly to the door behind the podium that led to his chambers. After he pressed the door closed behind him, the Judge leaned against the heavy wood panel and puffed out a tired sigh.
That was a narrow escape, thought the Judge. The Skeletal only shrieked once. But what will he do if I rule against his client? Shaking his head to clear it, Hovrel skirted around his desk and walked over to stare out the window. Not that there was anything to look at–at this height, all one could see through the perpetual gloom and fog of the UnderWorld was…well, fog and gloom.
What to do? fretted Hovrel, watching the mist eddies swirl on the other side of the window glass. In good conscience, the Judge knew he couldn’t rule for the plaintiff. If anyone should be charged with reckless endangerment, it should be the Charon, not Greely. Turning the boat beam to the waves was a rookie sailor move and, by his own admission, the ferryman has been plying his trade for over a millennium now; he should have known better. But, if Hovrel ruled for the defendant, Jeziale could erupt into full-throttle lamentation. Hovrel shuddered at that possibility. Judge Ropier’s hearing never fully recovered after he ruled against a Skeletal last year– the shrieks and screams caused so much damage that Ropier still required a hearing aid to this day.
It was a pickle, to be sure. But, thought Hovrel, maybe I can paint Jeziale into a corner and force him to drop the charges. Hovrel turned around, sat down at his desk and pushed the intercom button. “Send in Ravat via the side door, will you? And make sure the prosecution remains unaware,” he demanded.
Soon, a tentative rap on the chamber’s side door echoed out and the defense attorney stepped inside, his expression bemused. “You wished to meet with me?”
Hovrel nodded and indicated Ravat should sit in the chair across from him. Ravat quickly complied. “We have a perilous situation here with this unsupervised Skeletal,” the Judge began.
“I’m sorry?” Ravat interrupted, appearing confused.
Hovrel raised a brow. “Have you never experienced a Bone Demon lamentation?” he asked, incredulously. Ravat frowned and shook his head. “But surely, you’ve heard tales about them?” Hovrel asserted. Ravat shrugged. The Judge rolled his eyes and continued, “Trust me, the tales of their laments don’t do them justice. Anyway, I would like to avoid one in my courtroom today. But I need your help.”
Ravat leaned back in his seat and crossed a leg over his knee, casually. “Sure. What do you want me to do?” he asked.
“After I rule against Greely—”
Ravat sat bolt upright and gasped in outrage. “How could you possibly rule against him?”
Hovrel held up a hand. “Hear me out,” he commanded, glowering sternly at the now abashed lawyer, before continuing, “After I rule for the plaintiff, I will need you to immediately file a motion against Charon for assault. Every ghost in the courtroom witnessed Charon’s attack on Greely today, so you will have a very strong case.”
“And?” Ravat prompted, furrowing his brow.
“I will accept the motion, then you will offer Charon a bargain. If he drops his charge of reckless endangerment, Greely will drop his charge of assault. As you are well aware, assault is a much more serious crime than reckless endangerment. Jeziale will have no choice but to advise his client to accept the bargain,” Hovrel explained.
“That should work,” Ravat replied, sounding impressed.
Hovrel smiled grimly. “Indeed it should,” he agreed, then motioned for Ravat to return to the courtroom via the side door. After the ghostly lawyer exited, the Judge proudly chuckled to himself. The head prosecutor, Darvon, thought he was so clever dropping this Skeletal into my courtroom. But I out-witted him, oh yes, I did. Darvon will definitely think twice before trying another stunt like this on me again.