Justifiable Prevarication by Steven P. Arther

“The difference is, I lie for a reason,” said Lawrence Hardgrove, attorney at law. “It’s my job.” He stood and the loud scrape of his chair echoed off the hastily painted cinderblock walls and low-slung ceiling of the interrogation room. In the far corner, like a cowering rodent, a drain smelled suspiciously of blood and most certainly of urine.

Bobo the “magical clown” reached up with cuffed hands and pulled a white balloon from inside his cheek and said, “like I told you, man. I’m tellin the truth. I didn’t do nothin. That bitch is lyin.” He stretched, then blew into the balloon and inflated it.

The arresting officers had removed his big orange wig and white fingerless gloves, but apparently neglected a few things thought to be less important. Bobo still wore an oversize red jumpsuit printed with balloons of all sizes and shapes, a huge green bow tie that hung askew from his neck, and his feet were swallowed up in size 24 purple shoes. His white face paint barely covered the acne-scarred skin, the consequence of regular drug abuse. And the bright red makeup on his enormous heavily veined nose was smeared across his right cheek like blood. A clear indication that the arresting officers had helped his face, and possibly other things, make contact with something. Possibly a patrol car door.

Bobo tied off the first inflated balloon and produced another from his mouth. His left eye, bloodshot and hazy blue, watched the other white balloon inflate long and thin, while his right eye, as dead as his soul, stared at Hardgrove. The eye had been removed years ago after he was stabbed by a fellow comedic entertainer who caught Bobo in the throes of passion with his contortionist wife. Bobo received a realistic prosthetic eye, but over the years he changed it as often as his shoes. Today, it was an ebony orb. The white pupil was embossed with a black number eight.

Bobo’s left eye moved frequently but lingered on the two-way mirror taking up most of the adjacent wall. Never missing an opportunity to perform, he wondered who might be his audience today, despite attorney-client privilege.

Hardgrove leaned over his side of the scarred metal table. “I don’t think you understand, Mr. Bobo. She’s not saying anything. She’s dead.” He reached into his coat pocket; produced a handkerchief and threw it on the table, spilling out a set of keys with a clear plastic picture holder on the ring.

“Do you recognize that woman?” Hardgrove asked, pointing at the keys.

The crooked smile on Bobo’s face told Hardgrove all he needed to know. Bobo put down yet another inflated white balloon and picked up the keys. The picture was a traditional wedding photograph: the short, stout groom wore a classic and immaculate black suit; the bride, a beautiful blonde with big brown eyes, had her face framed by a lace veil, while the train of her dress flowed down several steps in front of her.

Bobo slid back the keys. “Nope, neva seen her before.” He picked up the inflated balloons; they made rubbing squeaks as he twisted them together.

“Her name was Alice McDermott.”

Hardgrove picked up the keys with the handkerchief and put them back in his pocket. “Witnesses put you, or rather someone who matches your description, at the park on the day of the crime. Even described that eight-ball eye of yours. But no DNA.”

“That’s it?” Bobo said, with a wide grin that showed dull, yellowing teeth.

“They hafta let me outta here then. No evidence. No eyewitness. Just another dead body in Narc Park.” With great flare, he produced a balloon facsimile of a poodle.

“You’re right. The prosecution doesn’t have enough to convict you. Circumstantial evidence. Not even enough to hold you. You’ll probably be released on your own recognizance.”

“Then get me the hell out of here! You’re my damn lawyer.”

“But … I’m not,” Hardgrove said. “I never said I was your lawyer. Just a lawyer.”

Bobo’s mask of confidence slipped. Just enough to reveal his true cowardice.

Hardgrove continued, “Do you know what Mrs. McDermott’s maiden name was? No. Of course not. You’ve never seen her before, right?”

With brown eyes moist and hard, Hardgrove moved within inches of Bobo’s face. “It was Hardgrove. She was married two years ago.” His grin was thin and humorless. “I told you, clown. I lie for a reason.”

Hardgrove stood tall and moved towards the locked door. He turned around for just a moment and patted his coat pocket. “Eightball corner pocket.”

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