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Volume 5034

P. J. Monahan: Girl from Hollywood - FP same as DJAce edition: Boris Vallejo cover art: January 1976
 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Part 14: Chapter 22
“Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.”
– The Eagles, “Hotel California”

Custer Pennington has been arrested by the U.S. Marshal, having been caught with bootleg whisky in his possession.  His attorney will of course regret that Custer made any statements to the U.S. Marshal before he came into the process, but that’s how real life is.  I used to have a card that gave basic legal advice on the back on what to do if you were ever arrested, mainly “ keep your mouth shut and don’t mess with law enforcement until I am present.”
Every person who took one of my cards and read it disregarded the advice once they were arrested.  My card now only has my name, address, and phone number on it.  The truth is, that almost everyone starts blabbing to the cops once they are arrested, proclaiming their innocence, or giving excuses, or blaming other people.  A good attorney just has to deal with things like that and make the best of it.

Custer’s attorney will basically be grateful from Custer’s account that his statements at the time were those of an innocent man, but that’s the problem: it relies on his version.  The U.S. Marshal and members of his posse may remember it another way.  Someone might recall Custer pointing his gun at them or acting guilty.  An officer’s observation of a suspect’s body language as he or she makes statements is admissible, so one has to be aware at a trial that an eyewitness’s inaccurate memory or out-and-out perjury under oath can come out of nowhere if is hasn’t been reported earlier, thus contradicting your client’s versin.  As we shall see, it appears the Colonel hired a good defense attorney for Custer, but that’s because he is rich and has access to the best.

Which reminds me, I believe I misspelled “defense” in an article aways back, having been improperly influenced by the spelling in the Gutenberg version, where it is routinely spelled as “defence.”  That spelling is only suggested in NFL football games where some fans in the stadium always seem to have two signs to hold up when their team is on defense: one of them is a huge capital “D” and the other is a white picket fence.  So I am – as I have done with words such as color and honor, where I disposed of the British “u” in those words and removed the hyphens in such words as today and tomorrow – going to start spelling defense the correct modern way in the text.  Let us proceed.

        They took Custer down to the village of Ganado, where they had left their cars and obtained horses.  Here they left the animals, including the Apache, with instructions that he should be returned to the Rancho del Ganado in the morning.
        The inhabitants of the village, almost to a man, had grown up in neighborly friendship with the Penningtons.  When he from whom the officers had obtained their mounts discovered the identity of the prisoner, his surprise was exceeded only by his anger.
        “If I’d known who you was after,” he said, “you’d never have got no horses from me.  I’d a’ hamstrung ‘em first!  I’ve known Cus Pennington since he was knee high to a grasshopper, and whatever you took him for he never done it. Wait till the Colonel hears of this.  You won’t have no more job than a jack rabbit!”
        The marshal turned threateningly toward the speaker.
        “Shut up!” he advised.  “If Colonel Pennington hears of this before morning, you’ll wish to God you was a jack rabbit, and could get out of the country in two jumps!  Now you get what I’m telling you – you’re to keep your trap closed until morning.  Hear me?”
        The officers and their prisoner were in the car ready to start.  The marshal pointed a finger at Jim.
        “Don’t forget what I told you about keeping your mouth shut until morning,” he admonished.
        They drove off toward Los Angeles.  Jim watched them for a moment, as the right tail light diminished in the distance.  Then he turned into the office of his feed barn and took the telephone receiver from its hook.  “Gimme Ganado No. 1,” he said to the sleepy night operator.
Ah, my kind of an American.  I mean, after all, was it a legal order to prevent Jim from calling Custer’s father?  What was the marshal’s reason: likely to have Custer all to themselves for third degee interrogation before he lawyered up.  Fox Cable News mainly suggests that this is some kind of evil, when suspect’s lawyer up, which is insane and against Constitutional due process.  After all, the Sixth Amendment guarantees counsel in criminal cases where your Godgiven liberty is at stake.  Due process is geared to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property.

  And, after all, what could the marshal do if Jim disobeyed – charge him with obstruction of justice?  That would be a bogus charge, but one that could cost Jim a lot of time and money if the government wished to prosecute him.  To me, there wasn’t even a true choice in the matter.

Screw the U.S. Marshal and do the right thing.

I must admit I was a little surprised that the Apache was being returned instead of impounded as evidence taken at the scene, which is pretty much standard procedure today.  So much, and yet, so little, has changed.

        It was five minutes before continuous ringing brought the Colonel to the extension telephone in his bedroom.  He seemed unable to comprehend the meaning of what Jim was trying to tell him, so sure was he Custer was in bed and asleep in a nearby room; but at last he was half convinced, for he had known Jim for many years, and well knew his stability and his friendship.
        He hung up the receiver.  While he dressed hastily, he explained to his wife the purport of the message he had just received.
        “What are you going to do?” she asked.
        “I’m going to Los Angeles, Julia.  Unless that marshal’s driving a race car, I’ll be waiting for him when he gets there!”
        Shortly before breakfast the following morning two officers, armed with a warrant, searched the castle on the hill.  In Custer Pennington’s closet they found something which seemed to fill them with elation – two full bottles of whisky and an empty bottle, each bearing a label identical with those on the bottles they had found in the cases borne by the burros.  With this evidence and the laden pack train, they started off toward the village.
Shannon Burke had put in an almost sleepless night.  For hours she had lain watching the black silhouette of the cupola against the clear sky, waiting for the light which would announce that Custer had returned home in safety: but no light shone to relieve her anxiety.
        She was up early in the morning, and in the saddle at the first streak of dawn, riding directly to the stables of the Rancho del Ganado.  The stableman was there, saddling the horses while they fed.
        “No one has come down yet?” she asked.
        “The Apache’s gone,” he replied.  “I don’t understand it.  He hasn’t been in his box all night.  I was just thinkin’ of goin’ up to the house to see if Custer was there.  Don’t seem likely he’d be ridin’ all night, does it.”
        “No,” she said.  Her heart was in her mouth.  She could scarcely speak.
        “I’ll ride up for you,” she managed to say.
        Wheeling Baldy, she put him up the steep hill to the house.  The iron gate that closed the patio at night was still down, so she rode around to the north side of the house and coohooed to attract attention of some one within.  Mrs. Pennington followed by Eva, came to the door.  Both were fully dressed.  When they saw who it was, they came out and told Shannon what had happened.
        He was not injured, then.  The sudden sense of relief left her weak, and for a moment she did not consider the other danger that confronted him.  He was safe! That was all that she cared about just then.  Later she commenced to realize the gravity of his situation, and the innocent part that she had taken in involving him in the toils of the scheme which her interference must have suggested to those actually responsible for the traffic in stolen liquor, the guilt of which they had now cleverly shifted to the shoulders of an innocent man.
        But there was something that she could do.  When she turned Baldy down the hill from the Pennington’s, she took the road home that led past the Evan’s ranch, and, turning in, dismounted and tied Baldy at the fence.  Her knock was answered by Mrs. Evans.
        “Is Guy here?” asked Shannon.  Hearing her voice, Guy came from his room, drawing on his coat.  “You’re getting as bad as the Pennington’s,” he said, laughing.  “They have no respect for Christian hours!”
        “Something has happened,” she said, “that I thought you should know about.  Custer was arrested last night by government officers and taken to Los Angeles.  He was out on the Apache at the time.  No one seems to know where he was arrested, or why; but the supposition is that they found him in the hills, for the man who runs the feed barn in the village – Jim – told the Colonel that the officers got horses from him and rode toward the ranch, and that it was a couple of hours later that they brought Custer back on the Apache.  The stableman just told me that the Apache had not been in his stall all night, and I know – Custer told me not to tell, but it will make no difference now – that he was going up into the hills last night to try to catch the men who have been bringing down loads on burros every
        Friday night for a long time, and who cut his fence last Friday.”
        She looked straight into Guy’s eyes as she spoke; but he dropped his as a flush mounted his cheek.
        “I thought,” she continued, “that Guy might want to go to Los Angeles and see if he could help the Colonel in any way.  The Colonel went last night.”
        “I’ll go now,” said Guy.  “I guess I can help him.”
        His voice was suddenly weary, and he turned away with an air of dejection which assured Shannon that he intended to do the only honorable thing that he could do – assume the guilt that had been thrown upon Custer’s shoulders, no matter what the consequences to himself.  She had little doubt that Guy would do this, for she realized his affection for Custer as well as the impulsive generosity of his nature, which, however marred by weakness, was still fine by instinct.
        Half an hour later, after a hasty breakfast, young Evans started for Los Angeles, while his mother and Shannon, standing in the porch of the bungalow, waved their goodbyes as his roadster swung through the gate into the county road. Mrs. Evans had only a vague idea as to what her son could do to assist Custer Pennington out of his difficulty; but Shannon Burke knew that Pennington’s fate lay in the hands of Guy Evans, unless she chose to tell what she knew.
        Colonel Pennington had overtaken the marshal’s car before the latter reached Los Angeles, but after a brief parley on the road he had discovered that he could do nothing to alter the officer’s determination to place Custer in the county jail pending his preliminary hearing before a United States commissioner.  Neither the Colonel’s plea that his son should be allowed to accompany him to an hotel for the night, nor his assurance that he would be personally responsible for the young man’s appearance before the commissioner on the following morning, availed to move the obdurate marshal from his stand; nor would he permit the Colonel to talk with the prisoner.
        This was the last straw.  Colonel Pennington had managed to dissemble outward indications of his rising ire, but now an amused smile lighted his son’s face as he realized that his father was upon the verge of an explosion. He caught the older man’s eyes and shook his head.
        “It’ll only make it worse,” he cautioned.
        The Colonel directed a parting glare at the marshal, muttered something about homeopathic intellects, and turned back to his roadster.
Ah, it seems that both the Colonel and Guy drive roadsters.  ERB liked fast cars and had the money to buy them.  It seems that Custer has enough had time to learn the mind of law enforcement people, knowing that losing it causes the situation to only worsen.  The cops love nothing better than if you resist or get unruly, physically or verbally.

I have a hard time getting the gist of the put-down, “homeopathic intellects.”  My dictionary defines homeopathy as “a system of medical treatment based on the use of minute quantities of remedies that in massive doses produce effects similar to those of the disease being treated.”  I guess the meaning lies in “the use of minute quantities,” to wit, those with little minds.  But your guess is as good as mine.

        During the long ride to Los Angeles, and later in his cell in the county jail, Custer Pennington had devoted many hours to seeking an explanation of the motives underlying the plan to involve him in a crime of which he had no knowledge, nor even a suspicion of the identity of its instigators.  To his knowledge, he had no enemies whole hostility was sufficiently active to lead them to do him so great a wrong.  He had had no trouble with any one recently, other than his altercation with Slick Allen several months before; yet it was obvious that he had been deliberately sacrificed for some ulterior purpose.  What that purpose was he could only surmise.
        The most logical explanation, he finally decided, was that those actually responsible, realizing that discovery was imminent, had sought to divert suspicion from themselves by fastening it upon another.  That they had selected him as the victim might easily be explained on the ground that his embarrassing interest in their movements had already centered their attention upon him, while it also offered the opportunity for luring him into the trap without arousing his suspicions.
        It was, then, just a combination of circumstances that had led him into his present predicament; but there still remained unanswered one question that affected his peace of mine more considerably than all the others combined.  Who had divulged to the thieves his plans for the previous night?
        Concurrently with the question there arose before his mind’s eye a picture of Shannon Burke and Baldy as they topped the summit above Jackknife from the trail that led across the basin meadow back into the hills, he knew not where.
        “I can’t believe that it was she,” he told himself for the hundredth time.
        “She could not have done it.  I won’t believe it!  She could explain it all if I could ask her; but I can’t ask her.  There is a great deal that I cannot understand, and the most inexplicable thing is that she could possibly have any connection whatever with the affair.”
        When his father came with an attorney, in the morning, the son made no mention of Shannon Burke’s ride into the hills, or of her anxiety, when they parted in the afternoon, to learn if he was going to carry out his plan for Friday night.
        “Did anyone know of your intention to watch for these men?” asked the attorney.
Every crime is made up of a certain amount of elements, like a recipe.  If any ingredient isn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then there will be no cake, and hence no crime.  There are two kinds of criminal intent, which always make up one of the ingredients: general intent and specific intent, the latter being the more serious.  Thus, Custer’s attorney’s question goes to the heart of the crime  – the main ingredient – and any witness who can support Custer’s version is a valuable material witness.

The great State of California has standardized jury instructions that inform the jury of the elements of each crime.  Since Federal Courts can cover more than one state, each District Court can have instructions submitted from many different resources, so I won’t use the Federal system as my example.  If Custer were to be charged today under California law with let’s say, possession of stolen property, which, under the circumstances most favorable to the government, on which I would have focused for a plea bargain, it would be done so under California Penal Code section 496(a), which reads in full as thus:

“Every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be stolen or obtained, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property be so stolen or obtained, shall be punished by imprisonment in a state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year.  However, if the district attorney or the grand jury determines that this action would be in the interests of justice, the district attorney or the grand jury, as the case may be, may, if the value of the property does not exceed four hundred dollars ($400), specify in the accusatory pleading, that the offense shall be a misdemeanor, punishable only by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.
“A principal in the actual theft of the property may be convicted pursuant to this section.  However, no person may be convicted with both pursuant to this section and of the theft of the property.”
Note that this crime is both a felony and a misdemeanor, making it a no-brain“wobbler,” for most other crimes are revealed as wobblers solely by the sentencing options.  For juries, this crime is broken down into its elements as follows in Calcrim instruction No. 1750, to wit, “Receiving Stolen Property and Related Instructions:

The defendant is charged in [Count     ] with receiving stolen property [in violation of Penal Code section 496(a).

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

1. The defendant (bought/received/sold/aided in selling/concealed orwithheld from its owner/aided in concealing or withholding from its owner) property that had been (stolen/obtained by extortion);

2. When the defendant (bought/received/sold/aided in selling/concealed orwithheld/aided in concealing or withholding) the property, (he/she) knew that the property had been (stolen/obtained by extortion)(;/.)
<Give element 3 when instructing on knowledge of presence of property; see Bench Notes>

3. The defendant actually knew of the presence of of the property.]

[Property is stolen if it was obtained by any typed of theft, or by burglary or robbery. [Theft includes obtaining property by larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, or trick.]]

[Property is obtained by extortion if: (1) the property was obtained from another person with that person’s consent, and (2) that person’s consent was obtained through the use of force or fear.]

[To receive stolen property means to take possession and control of it. Mere presence near or access to the property is not enough.] [Two or more people can possess the property at the same time.] [A person does not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it.  It is enough if the person has [control over it] [or] [the right to control it], either personally or through another person.]” (Emphases not added.]

The brackets make that part of the instruction optional, depending what the facts of the charges are.  Deciding which brackets to keep and what blanks to fill in is the primary job of submitting instructions to the judge at the beginning of the trial, and then reviewing them with the judge ruling on any differences between the parties.  This is what happens as various times at the end of the trial when the jury has to wait in their room for the attorneys and court to review the instructions before the case goes to the jury.

The notes in this instruction inform one that this is a general intent crime.  Calcrim No. 252 defines a general intent crime as one that a person “must do so with wrongful intent,” defined as doing a prohibited act “on purpose, however, it is not required that he or she intend to break the law.”  I know that’s tricky, but maybe the definition of specific intent will clear it up. For specific intent, the person must not only commit the crime, but must do it with “a specific intent” to commit that crime, specified in the instruction dealing with that crime.  Not clear yet?

Now you know why you need an attorney.

Anyway, you can see why Custer’s attorney focused on this element.  Without intent there is no crime.  The first thing I do after getting a new client is to review the jury instructions related the crimes for which he or she is alleged to have committed.  Most good trial attorneys follow this practice for it helps direct your investigation of the case, and provides an attorney with some kind of clue as to how to approach the district attorney for any kind of plea bargain, which is basically how the criminal justice system works.

When an experienced DA and an experienced defense attorney, who each have an idea of how good the other is, have a meeting of the minds, they should be able to agree on what a reasonable jury would do if the case went to trial.  This is why 96% of all criminal cases are decided by plea bargaining, saving the courts and taxpayers a fortune in trial expenses.  Plea bargaining is usually promoted as a great evil, but only when elections are being decided, and then they are used as an issue of someone being soft on crime.  The reality is that it is a great good of which the public should be made aware.

My practice is to never ask my client if he or she is guilty, for I want to keep an open free mind uninhibited by guilt or innocence until I have all or most of the facts.  If the evidence is overwhelming against my client, then the case is definitely one to be made under a plea bargain, where my job then becomes assuring that my client is not punished any more than he or she has to be.

If the evidence is shaky, then it is probably not beyond a reasonable doubt and I will do all I can do to get the case dismissed or go to trial and make them prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  By the way, beyond a reasonable doubt is almost absolute certainty, for even though 2 + 2= 4 is an absolute, everything is subject to some doubt in some minds.  Unfortunately, most juries don’t apply the right standard, thinking that “well, this case sure is fishy – I’m just not sure, but the DA has put on sufficient evidence for me to not want to take any chances, thus I will vote him guilty.”  What’s inside a juror’s mind at the time the jury made a verdict is off limits on appeal, thus mistakes are routinely made, and you take a big chance going to trial even if you are innocent.  We will see this probably happening later in the story.

Let’s take an example of something that is absolutely certain that many regard as only a scientific theory: Deep Time.  Many minds in America today refuse to accept the absolute certainty of Deep Time, claiming with all of their faith that the earth was created six thousand years ago.  Not being Bill Nye the Science Guy, I always use limestone for my main argument. Limestone is a sedimentary rock made out of pressed and compacted old coral reefs, forming at the bottom of the ocean, then smashed together and thrown up above the water due to plate tectonics.  Since limestone constitutes most of Florida today, where sinkholes seem to be multiplying – and also exists at the top of Mt. Everest, it is self-evident that the whole surface of the planet was at one time or another under the ocean.  Of course this process takes billions of years, to wit, Deep Time.  It cannot have been formed in one year due to a Great Flood.  It was his realization of Deep Time that gave Darwin the impetus for his Theory of Evolution.

  This argument, however, does little other than to piss them off when I use it, which I attribute to Cognitive Dissonance.  After all, it takes more faith to believe in the truth than scary Bible fairy tales, where God will surely punish you if you don’t believe in them.  I am grateful every day that Benjamin Franklin’s grand experiment is based on Masonic rather than Biblical principles.  I’m a 32nd degree Mason and I have a B.A. in Political Science and know what I am talking about, even though I am not in current good standing in the fraternity.  I shudder every time I hear someone shouting that America is a Christian nation which went astray because the Ten Commandments were not incorporated into the American Constitution.  Sure, most Americans at the time were Christian, but so what?  Many were also Jews and atheists too.  E pluribus unum.

 This is why instructing the jury on the law, where they have had no formal training, is a crap shoot at best.  This is why good trial attorneys are in high demand.  If the case is scary to a jury, then the weakest evidence will usually carry the day, and then one can only hope the courts will pay attention when the case is appealed.  But as scary as the system can be, there is still no better engine of justice on earth.  Doesn’t that make you feel more secure?
Now, let us return to the initial attorney-client interview, where Custer has been asked if anyone else knew of his intention to watch for the trespassers.

        “No one,” he replied; “but they might have become suspicious from the fact that the week before I had all the gates padlocked on Friday.  They had to cut the fence that night to get through.  They probably figured that it was getting too hot for them, and that on the following Friday I would take some other steps to discover them.  Then they made sure of it by sending me that message from Los
Angeles.  Gee, but I bit like a sucker!”
        “It is unfortunate,” remarked the attorney, “that you had not discussed your plans with some one before you undertook to carry them out on Friday night.  If we could thus definitely establish your motive for going alone into the hills, and to the very spot where you were discovered with the pack train, I think it would go much further toward convincing the court that you were there without any criminal intent than your own unsupported testimony to that effect!” Colonel Pennington snorted.
        “The best thing to do now,” said the attorney, “is to see if we can get an immediate hearing, and arrange for bail in case he is held to the grand jury.” “I’ll go with you,” said the Colonel.
        They had been gone but a short time when Guy Evans was admitted to Custer’s cell.  The latter looked up and smiled when he saw who his visitor was.
        “It was bully of you to come,” he said.  “Bringing condolences, or looking for material, old thing.”
        “Don’t joke, Cus,” exclaimed Evans.  “It’s too rotten to joke about, and it’s all my fault.”
        “Your fault?”
        “I am the guilty one.  I’ve come down to give myself up.”
        “Just what the devil are you talking about?” inquired Pennington.  “Do you mean to tell me that you have been mixed up in – well, what do you know about that?”  A sudden light had dawned upon Custer’s understanding.  “That hootch that you’ve been getting me – that I joked you about it – was really the stuff that was stolen from a bonded warehouse in New York?  It wasn’t any joke at all.”
        “You can see for yourself now how much of a joke it was,” replied Evans.
        “I’ll admit,” returned Custer ruefully, “that it does not require considerable of a sense of humor to see it in this joint!”
        “What do you suppose they’ll do to me?” asked Guy.  “Do you suppose they’ll sent me to the penitentiary?”
        “Tell me the whole thing from the beginning – who got you into it, and just what you’ve done.  Don’t omit a thing, no matter how much it incriminates you.  I don’t need to tell you, old man, that I’m for you, no matter, what you’ve done.”
        “I know that, Cus; but I’m afraid no one can help me.  I’m in for it.  I knew it was stolen from the start.  I have been selling it since last May – seven thousand seven hundred and seventy-six quarts of it – and I made a dollar on every quart.  It was I was going to start housekeeping on.  Poor little Eva!”  Again a sob half choked him.  “It was Slick Allen that started me.  First he sold me some; then he got me to sell you a bottle, and bring him the money.  Then he had me, or at least he made me think so; and he insisted on my handling it for them out in the valley. It wasn’t hard to persuade me, for it looked safe, and it didn’t seem like such a rotten thing to do, and I wanted the money the worst way.  I know they’re all bum excuses.  I shan’t make any excuses – I’ll take my medicine; but it’s when I think of Eva that it hurts.  It’s only Eva that counts!”
        “Yes,” said Pennington, laying his hand affectionately on the other’s shoulder.  “It is only Eva who counts; and because of Eva, and because you and I love her so much, you cannot go to the penitentiary.”
        “What do you mean – cannot go?”
        “Have you told any one else what you have just told me?”
        “Don’t.  Go back home, and keep your mouth shut,” said Custer.
        “You mean that you will take a chance of going up for what I did? Nothing doing!  Do you suppose I’d let you, Cus, the best friend I’ve got in the world, go to the pen for me – for something I did?”
        “It’s not for you, Guy.  I wouldn’t go to the pen for you or any other man; but I’d go to the pen for Eva, and so would you.”
        “I know it, but I can’t let you do it.  I’m not rotten, Cus!”
        “You’ve got to – it’s the easiest way.  We’ve all got to be punished for what you did – those who love us are always punished for our sins; but let me tell you that I don’t think you are going to escape punishment if I go up for this. You’re going to suffer more than I.  You’re going to suffer more than you would if you went up yourself; but it can’t be helped.  The question is, are you man enough to do this for Eva?  It is your sacrifice more than mine.”
        “My God, Cus, I’d rather go myself!”
        “I know you would.”
        Evans walked slowly from the jail, entered his car, and drove away.  Of the two hearts his was the heavier; of the two burdens his the more difficult to bear. At the time going to jail or even getting arrested was a real horrible family scandal.
Today it is still a scandal, but it is mainly viewed as the same as going to jail in the game of Monopoly – it’s all part of the game.  Custer’s way of thinking may seem really foreign to us today, with all of its misguided sense of loyalty and honor, but it may have been quite normal for ERB’s audience at the time.
        Custer Pennington appearing before a United States commissioner that afternoon for his preliminary hearing, was held to the Federal grand jury, and admitted to bail.  The evidence brought by the deputies who had searched the Pennnington home, taken in connection with the circumstances surrounding his arrest, seemed to leave the commissioner no alternative.  Even the Colonel had to admit that to himself, though he would never had admitted it to another.  The case would probably come up before the grand jury on the following Wednesday.
        That night, at dinner, Custer made light of the charge against him, yet at the same time he prepared them for what might happen, for the proceedings before the commissioner had impressed him with the gravity of his case, as had also the talk he had had with his attorney afterward.
        “My boy’s word is all I need,” replied his mother.
        Eva came and put her arms about him.
        “They wouldn’t send you to jail, would they?” she demanded.  “It would break my heart.”
        “Not if you knew I was innocent.”
        “N – no, not then, I suppose; but it would be awful.  If you were guilty, it would kill me.  I’d never want to live if my brother was convicted of a crime, and was guilty of it.  I’d kill myself first!”
See what I mean about misguided family disgrace?  I guess that goes along with having too high of an opinion about yourself, but who am I to judge?  It sure wasn’t the attitude in my family.  No one in my family felt disgraced because I went AWOL from the Army, even though my Dad immediately notified the FBI that I wasn’t to be allowed to leave the country.  Good old Dad, the retired Lt. Colonel.  He would have been a hundred years old last November if he would have lived past 62.  I already have five years on him.  But he drank heavily all his life and smoked nearly three packs of cigarettes a day, and did I mention that he got machine-gunned by the Nazis in a Normandy apple orchard shortly after D-Day, nearly losing a leg?  Oh well, family disgrace can’t really be weighed on some kind of uniform scale for all families, admit it!
        Her brother drew her face down and kissed her tenderly.
        “That would be foolish, dear,” he said.  “No matter what one of us does, such an act would make it all the worse – for those who were left.”
        “I can’t help it,” she said.  ‘It isn’t just because I have had the honor of the Penningtons preached to me all my life.  It’s because it’s in me – the Pennington honor.  It’s part of me, just as it’s a part of you, and mother, and father.  It’s a part of the price we have to pay for being Penningtons.  I have always been proud of it, Custer, even if I am only a silly girl.’
I met a guy once who had this same attitude about honor and duty.  He was an Army Ranger dressed in braided uniform, and he was sitting next to me at the bar in the Omni Hotel in downtown San Diego.  I had stayed there while I took the State Bar Exam in the summer of 1989, and was finally relaxing with a nice tall cool one after the tough three day grind.  He said he was from Kentucky and when I shared with him my history of being cuckholded by my exwife, he was genuinely astonished that I hadn’t killed her and her lovers.  “Family honor demands such a duty!” he exclaimed.

Personally, I had two daughters to think about, and I didn’t want to leave them with the thought that Daddy killed Mommy and now is in prison for the rest of his life, or worse, facing the death penalty.  You see, I really consider these types of things.  Family honor be damned! Too bad for Eva that she doesn’t change her mind, even with her brother’s argument to the contrary.  And this is just for bootlegging.  What would she do if he had been accused of first degree murder?

        “I’m proud of it, too, and I haven’t jeopardized it; but even if I had, you mustn’t think about killing yourself on my account, or any one’s else.”
        “Well, I know you’re not guilty, so I don’t have to.”
        “Good!  Let’s talk about something pleasant.”
        “Why didn’t you see Grace while you were in Los Angeles?”
        “I tried to.  I called up her boarding place from the lawyer’s office.  I understood the woman who answered the phone to say that she would call her, but she came back in a couple of minutes and said that Grace was out of location.”
        “Did you leave your name?”
        “I told the woman who I was when she answered the phone.”
        "I’m sorry you didn’t see her," said Mrs. Pennington.  “I often think that Mrs. Evans, or Guy, should run down to Los Angeles occasionally and see Grace.”
        “That’s what Shannon says,” said Custer.  “I’ll try to see her next week, before I come home.
        “Shannon was up nearly all afternoon waiting to hear if we received any word from you.  When you telephoned that you had been held to the Federal grand jury, she would scarcely believe it.  She said there must be some mistake.”
        “Did she say anything else?”
        “She asked whether Guy got there before you were held and I told her that you said Guy visited you in the jail.  She seems so worried about the affair – just as if she were one of the family.  She is such a dear girl!  I think I grow to love her more and more every day.”
        “Yes,” said Custer noncommittally.
        “She asked me one rather peculiar question,” Eva went on.
        “What was that?”
        “She asked if I was sure that it was you who had been held to the grand jury.”
        “That was odd, wasn’t it?”
        “She’s so sure of your innocence just as sure as we are,” said Eva.
        “Well, that’s very nice of her,” remarked Custer.
I’m sure glad I don’t have to think of the things plaguing Custer’s mind at the moment. You can see ERB’s almost sadistic way that he gets his characters into almost inescapable positions just to figure out a way to rescue them.  But not everyone is rescued in this story.  In the end, The Girl from Hollywood is a Shakespearian tragedy.  Of course, some may find the end to be happy overall.  But, let’s not forget what his LAPD ex-partner tells Jack Nicholson at the end of the movie, “Come on, Jake, it’s Chinatown!”
Till next time then.

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Read The Girl From Hollywood Text in ERBzine
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 by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Pt. I: Ch. 1 Pt. II: Ch. 2 Pt. III: Ch. 3/4 Pt. IV: Ch. 5 Pt. V: Ch. 6/7 Pt. VI: Ch. 8/9/10 Pt. VII: Ch. 11/12
Pt. VIII: Ch. 13/14 Pt. IX: Ch. 15 Pt. X: Ch. 16 Pt. XI: Ch. 17/18 Pt. XII: Ch. 19/20 Pt. XIII: Ch. 21 Pt. XIV: Ch. 22/23
Pt. XV: Ch. 24/25 Pt. XVI: Ch. 26/27/28 Pt. XVII: Ch. 29/30/31 Pt. XVIII: Ch. 32/33 Pt. XIX: Ch. 34 Pt. XX: Ch. 35 Pt. XXI: Ch. 36/37


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