The courtroom was certainly packed, compared to last time, thought Oak Starmont, while taking a peek over his shoulder in hopes of spotting his mother in the gallery. He hoped to give her a reassuring smile, but her hopeless look spun him back around. Over the last few months her hope had been drained with every one of his courtroom appearances.
“I guess people in this town will watch anything for entertainment,” mumbled Oak. “especially in February.”
“It has nothing to do with February or entertainment,” moaned Howie Montoya sitting next to Oak, “they think we assaulted and nearly killed the Mayor’s eighty-year-old mother.” Howie had become less hopeful over the last few months that his friend was ever going to stop getting them into trouble.
“Don’t worry buddy,” said Oak with even less hope in his voice then he expected, “after we rescue the Princess, they will forget about us and focus on the real criminal around this town.”
Oak could feel the hope slipping away as he spoke. First his dad disappeared six months ago and now each court appearance made him realize that his dad wasn’t coming back to make things right. How could his dad just leave his family? Leave him? What had he done to make his dad leave?
Howie shook his head grumbling, “Man, it’s only a matter of time Oak before they try to blame the disappearance of the Princess on us, as well.” He paused knowing that his best friend was now lost in thought about his dad. “I know your dad’s disappearance has been hard, but we’ll be lucky if we don’t windup in juvee for this one.”
Looking over his shoulder to find his mom, Howie noticed she was too busy shooting daggers at the prosecutor to return a glance. Broc Starmont had meant a lot to him as well, he had saved his life several years ago, but Howie, like everyone in town knew he wasn’t coming back. He was either dead or worse, he had abandoned his family.
“You need to think of your mom Oak,” he paused as the door to the judge’s chamber opened, “You’re all she has now.”
Judge Williams appeared from his chamber using his walking staff, which combined with his faded robe and grey beard gave the elderly man a wizard like appearance and thus the moniker, Williams the Punisher, by most of the town youth. Being the only judge in the town for a generation, he had made judgments on just about everyone, including Oak’s dad around this age. The older Starmont had had his time in court, but turned out okay, thought the judge. Oak had never been in his courtroom until after his dad’s disappearance, which left Judge Williams giving Oak a hopeless look before sitting down to read his verdict.
Breaking the eerie silence that had engulfed the courtroom, Judge Williams started, “In my forty years on this bench I have never seen two boys, especially you, Oak Starmont, who have had such poor…” pausing to think of how to sum it up best, “Luck, yes that is what I would call it, such poor luck.”
“Luck!” screamed a tall blonde prosecutor, louder then she wanted too. Taking a moment to calm herself and smooth out her grey skirt before continuing, “Your honor, there was no luck involved, just pure evil. Evil is the only word to describe these two boys. Breaking four ribs of an eighty-year-old woman isn’t lucky and…” but a gavel cut her off.
“Now, Mrs. Brackens, this is still my courtroom, you and your Sheriff husband and his family may run this small town, but I still make the decisions in here.” He eyed the intimidating Sheriff Brackens in the back of the room before consider any further outburst, finally adding, “as I have stated earlier, I would’ve removed you from this case, since it was your husband’s grandmother that was hurt, but we don’t have another prosecutor in town and I wasn’t going to let these boys sit in jail waiting for a prosecutor from Anchorage. Don’t interrupt me again.”
Prosecutor Brackens squeaked out a, “Umph,” before sitting down.
“As I was saying, these two boys over the last six months have had their share of poor luck mixed with normal teenage stupidity.” Was this the fourth or fifth time now that they had been in his courtroom? He couldn’t remember, but that rocket launch a few months ago couldn’t have gone any worse. If Broc Starmont had been around the boys would have been launching somewhere other than the school playground. But he wasn’t going to be around. Who was going to help Oak’s luck turn around?
“I don’t believe they weren’t actually trying to hurt the elder Mrs. Brackens. Their CPR on her was well intended, but their lack of self-control to fully check for a pulse did hurt her. That fact has been restated over and over in this case. In that I find Oak Starmont and Howie Montoya guilty of assault.” Judge Williams paused knowing that half the courtroom was going to let out a chorus of agreement, while the other half, cries of disappointment. Raising his gavel, the crowd silenced, “I sentence both to six months of probation and twenty hours of community service.”
Bolting out of her seat, “That’s a slap on the wrist,” cried prosecutor Brackens.
“It may be, but it is my slap to give and you are going to have to live with it prosecutor,” squirmed the judge as he retreated out of the courtroom before any of the Brackens could approach him with their idea of justice.
The two boys were also rushed out of the courtroom, before the Brackens side of the law could find something else to arrest them for.
“I wish your father was here to put that over bearing beauty queen has-been in her place,” crowed Oak’s mother as they paused outside the courthouse. “Go with the Montoya’s now, I have to get back to work before the Brackens get me fired.”
“Mom, I’m sorry…” Oak tried to say before his mom put her hand on his mouth.
“Honey, we will talk when I get home. I love you. Now go, before they get out here. “
The boys got into the van with Howie’s five sisters. The drive would be short back to the Montoya’s house, but if Howie let his sisters get a word in, they would make Oak feel worse than he does or at least Howie hoped he felt.
“Beauty queen has-been? Your mom is a hoot, Oak,” quipped Howie.
“I’m glad you think so,” said Oak looking out the window, “you want to trade or better yet, your parents can adopt me like they did you.”
“No way,” Howie paused looking at the front of the van, his parents where just out of earshot, “my mom hates the Brackens more than me. I won’t get a lick of trouble over this.” He knew that wasn’t totally true, mothers never let you get away scot free, they are required to let you know how guilt feels, when you mess up.
Oak knew his mother didn’t like the Brackens, who did in town, but since his dad disappeared, she has been over reacting when he did anything wrong. If only he could prove to his mom that he wasn’t a criminal. Tomorrow if he was lucky, he would save the Princess and his mom, along with everyone else in town, would see he wasn’t a criminal, maybe just unlucky.