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Chapter 13: Arrested

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A novel about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church, the parsonage, the community.

© 1996 G. Edwin Lint
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The Mazda Miata hummed a quiet oriental tune as Dave Court guided it expertly along the winding two-lane black-top of Pennsylvania route 114. The posted limit was forty but the road was dry, the hour late, the traffic light to nonexistent, and the car was responding crisply. So his cruising speed was closer to fifty-five than forty. At the slightest hint of torque agony, he down-shifted to fourth or even third with no more than a glance at the tach to confirm what his keen ear had already told him.

Dave was on his way home from an evening course at Shippensburg University which had dismissed at nine-fifteen, even with the professor letting the class out fifteen minutes early in compensation for their having voluntarily foregone a mid-session break. One on the reasons for Dave pushing the Miata just a little extra was Patricia's late-afternoon appointment with the gynecologist. She'd missed two periods and they were fervently hoping and praying that a baby might be about to take up permanent residence in the Court household. After months and months of false hopes, careful attention to the calendar and body temperature, and delays caused by persistent infections, it seemed just too good to be true that Patricia finally just might be pregnant.

He'd thought about slipping out of class to call her but dismissed that idea when he realized that a positive report would have wasted him for the rest of the evening. Matter of fact, the same would have been true of a negative report. Anyway, he had exercised self control and was looking forward to the moment when Patricia would be in his arms, positive or negative. Give me grace to accept a negative report, he prayed while downshifting to third for a left hair-pin curve. We want your will for our lives, Lord, but you know how much we want a baby. Our own baby. Born of our love for each other, and to be raised in a Christian home in the spirit of holiness.

It caused literal physical pain in the pit of his stomach to think of all the babies aborted every day for the callous convenience of the mother. And all those crack babies being born to girls who were scarcely more than babies themselves. All those tiny, innocent babies who were born impaired by drugs, with absolutely no say in the kind of circumstances into which they were about to be projected. Dear God, can't you forestall just one of those unwanted crack pregnancies and give Patricia and me a chance? We promise that nothing will be left undone which would prevent our baby from being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

For several moments, he heaved dry sobs as the Miata drove itself. The road straightened for about a half mile after a twisting mountain climb. Without thinking, Dave let the speed creep above sixty.

He saw it too late to do anything about it. A township police car had been parked about twenty yards back a diagonal side road, lights out, of course. Dave down-shifted immediately to fourth and let his speed drop to less than forty before touching the accelerator again. Too late. Even a township cop could tell the difference between forty and sixty, and he remembered what the salesman had told him about cops and red sports cars.

The red-and-blue strobes came on behind him. Without waiting for the electronic whoop of the siren, he pulled into a deserted, decrepit gas station with an oval Esso sign telling of bygone years of happy motoring.

The police car parked about ten yards behind the Miata with headlights on high beam and a spotlight focused on the Miata's interior. Dave rolled down his window but the officer stayed in his car and nothing happened for a least two minutes. "Remain where you are, Mazda," said an amplified and metallic voice with official-sounding inflection. "Turn off the engine and toss your keys out the window."

This guy has a massive case of brass-button fever, muttered Dave as he cranked down the driver's-side window and dropped his keys onto the grass-invaded black-top of the old gas station. And there they both sat. The speeder, who was getting more confused by the moment, and the police officer with the strangest method of making a speeding arrest Dave had ever heard of. It wasn't until another set of red-and-blue strobes appeared on the far horizon that Dave realized the officer behind him must be waiting for backup. For a speeding ticket? The cruiser coming toward Dave was giving full voice with assorted electronic whoops and warbles. Coming at a high rate of speed, too. Practice what you preach, buddy, Dave muttered.

Now the Miata was in the brilliant cross fire of the combined halogens of two sets of high beams with two spotlights trained at Dave from front and rear. The next voice he heard was from the car in front of him which had just arrived.

"Unlatch your door and open it with your foot," intoned a woman's voice over the PA with the same police-officer inflection which had come from the cruiser in the rear. "Keep both hands where we can see them and step out of the car." Dave obeyed quickly, although thoroughly confused and more than a little angry. "Hands on top of your head."

Both officers exited their cars. As the woman officer moved closer, Dave was astounded to see she had a .38 Smith & Wesson police special trained at his belt line.

"Assume the position beside the left front fender of your car, about one yard from the tire." Dave did as he was instructed, leaning forward and placing his palms on the Miata's scarlet skin. While in the classic search position, the man patted him down, swiftly, deftly, and thoroughly.

After Dave straightened, the woman asked, "Do you have any ID on you?" Dave nodded. "Use one hand to toss your wallet toward the back of the car." Dave complied, still completely dumfounded.

The officer in the rear picked up Dave's wallet. "Are you David E. Court of 1425 East Cedar Street in Mechanicsburg?" he asked.

When Dave agreed that he was, a firm male hand grasped his right wrist from behind and moved it down to his belt line. A metallic click and the feel of cold metal. A second click and Dave was cuffed for the first time in his life.

The man now stepped into Dave's line of vision and his gun was drawn, also. "Isn't this a little heavy for twenty miles over the limit on a dry road?" Dave asked with move bravery than he felt.

The officers ignored his question and the woman spoke. "My name is Sgt. Salter of the Upper Allen Township Police Department and this is Officer Hall. We have a warrant for your arrest in a case of felonious sexual assault of a minor. Officer Hall, will you please lay the Miranda card on the hood of the car where Mr. Court can follow along as I read." Hall put the card on the top of the Miata's left front fender. Dave had heard the warning often on TV and decided he wouldn't follow on the card. But then, this time the warning was not being heard from the comfort and safety of his living room couch. Now the famous Miranda warning was being read by a real, live officer, and to him. It was being read to David E. Court of 1425 East Cedar Street in Mechanicsburg, not some no-name actor playing a walk-on part.

Sgt. Salter began to read as Dave leaned over to follow. "You are under arrest. Before we ask you any questions, you must understand what your rights are. One, you have a right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions. Two, anything you do or say may be used against you in a court of law. Three, as we discuss this matter, you have the right to stop answering my questions at any time that you desire."

"Discuss this matter!" interrupted Dave. "I only wish I could discuss this matter. The worst thing I've done, that I know about at least, is to go about fifteen-twenty miles over the limit. What I want to discuss is this 'felonious sexual assault' charge. Just what am I supposed to have done, and to whom have I done it? I'm innocent, I tell you!" Dave was really steamed but the officers waited placidly until Dave finished venting and then Sgt. Salter continued reading.

"Four, you have the right to a lawyer before speaking to me, to remain silent until you can talk to him, and to have him present during the time you are being questioned. Five, if you desire a lawyer but cannot afford one, a Public Defender will be provided to you without cost." That's me. I surely can't afford a lawyer to get me out of this mess.

"Six, do you understand each of these rights as I have explained them to you?" Dave answered in the affirmative. "Now that I have advised you of your rights, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney?"

"No ma'am," answered Dave a little irritably. "If I'm being charged with, what was it, felonious sexual assault, that's too deep for me. I've already told you as much as I'm going to: my name and address."

"In that case, I'll ask you to sign the Miranda card as indication you have been made fully aware of your constitutional rights. Are you right or left handed?"


"Officer Hall, cuff him in front and then step back." Hall did so and Salter handed Dave a ball point pen. He scrawled his name on the bottom of the card, retracted the point, and handed it back clip first.

When his hands were cuffed behind him again, Dave realized they were already beginning to chaff his wrists. They spoke coldly but eloquently of the reality of his predicament. And the charge! Felonious sexual assault of a minor? That's ridiculous! He'd never assaulted a person in his life, minor or major, sexually or otherwise, except maybe when taking out the short stop to break up a double play. What in the world is going on? This is weird beyond belief!

After Dave signed the card, the officers ignored him entirely and spoke to each other only. Sgt. Salter would be following Officer Hall who would be transporting the suspect and leading the way. Both officers assisted Dave in getting into the back seat of Hall's Chevy Caprice. Now Dave knew for real why officers always pressed down on a prisoner's head while he was getting into the back seat of a police car. If Salter hadn't been pressing firmly on the top of his head, he would have whacked it soundly on the top of the door frame as he struggled to enter the car with his hands cuffed behind him. Hall was pretty long in the leg and the front bench seat must have been back as far as it would go.

After Salter had closed the back door and Hall was getting into the driver's seat, Dave noted that he was in a mobile jail cell. The rear door panels had no window cranks, no door handles, and no door locks. And there was a sturdy diamond-mesh grill separating the front seat from the jail-cell rear seat.

The cuffs were cutting sharply into his wrists. Dave considered asking Hall to pull his seat up a little but decided to seek relief by sitting sideways and stretching his legs out on the seat. In the lights of Hall's cruiser, he could see Salter carefully locking the Miata and pocketing the keys. Then they were underway with flashing strobes but silent sirens.

"Salter to dispatch," said the woman's voice from Hall's radio speaker. "The suspect is in custody and we are moving east on 114 to the Township Building. Tell the county sheriff we'll keep him in a holding cell until a deputy can transport him down to Carlisle. Oh, and tell the sheriff we read him the Miranda and he signed the card."

Dave never made it to the holding cell. When the two-car caravan arrived at the township building, a Ford with Cumberland County Sheriff markings and two deputies in the front seat was waiting to take him to the county jail in Carlisle.

Briskly the four officers switched Dave from the Chevy cell to the Ford cell and once again he was riding under flashing strobes and silent siren. The deputy riding shotgun made a terse radio report to the county dispatcher that they would be arriving at the jail in twenty minutes. After that, the radio and both officers were quiet for the rest of the trip. Dave spent the time praying fervently.

At the prison, Dave was helped from the car and taken to the prison's induction area. There he was booked, fingerprinted, photographed, and strip-searched. After the search, he was asked to sign a receipt for his personal belongings and given an outfit of prison clothes. Then he was escorted to cell with two sets of bunk beds and three inmate occupants. There was a loud clang as we was locked in for the night.

As the correction officer walked away down the cell block, Dave suddenly remembered something. "Officer!

The man stopped, turned slowly, and strolled back to the cell. "Now what?"

"I'd like to made a phone call."

"You already got your phone call. Now go to sleep."

"No, sir, I did not," Dave countered earnestly.

The correction officer grunted noncommittally but produced a set of cuffs. "Step up to the bars." Dave was cuffed through the bars and then the cell door was unlocked. You get two calls if you want them."

"One will be fine," answered Dave.

"What's the number," asked the man as they walked toward the far end of the cell block.

Patricia collected her medical insurance card from the receptionist and left the gynecologist's office walking on at least two inches of air. After all the waiting, after all the hoping, after all the praying, the time had finally come. She was pregnant! She and Dave were going to have a baby! Their own little Tessa. Or maybe their own little Ben. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, thank you, Jesus! she prayed over and over again. As soon as she got in the Beretta, she switched the ignition to ACC and inserted the tape. Then she reclined the seat about half way back as Sandi Patti's full, rich voice sang, "You are a masterpiece..." How many times had she and Dave prayed their way through this song as the popular singer sang of how God in his marvelous power and wisdom could cause a human masterpiece to form oh so delicately while "secluded in God's safe and hidden place". Right now Patricia's hands spread reverently, lovingly, protectively over that safe and hidden place where, with each blip of the digital clock's flashing colon, a cell was dividing, and subdividing, over and over again as that tiny mote of life grew second by second into what she and Dave would some seven months later hold in their arms as their very own baby.

The song ended and Patricia immediately pressed rewind and listened. Four minutes and one second later Patricia pressed rewind again to hear "Masterpiece" for the third time. Throughout the twelve minutes and three seconds it took to hear the song three times, she never moved her warm and loving hands from that area of her body where, "secluded in God's safe and hidden place," their baby was continuing to grow.

Finally it was time to back out of the parking place and drive home to the celebration dinner she had been planning for months. She glanced at the clock again. Dave should be home from Shippensburg University about ten-fifteen. That would give her at least three hours to fix the best meal of which her hands and brain and purse and kitchen were capable.

A light turned yellow with time enough to scoot through showing red but she braked quickly but firmly to a full stop short of the cross walk. No rent-a-cop trying to make his quota before the shift ended was going to spoil this night. This night was special. This night was a time for joy, a time for feasting, a time for embracing and weeping, and loving. No lousy traffic ticket was going to spoil this night!

Carefully she tucked the Beretta away for the night in the town house's car port, leaving Dave plenty of room for the Miata. Inside, she quickly placed a lace tablecloth on the dining room table and then placed two sterling silver candle sticks on the cloth. Last night, she and Dave had talked about the news which the next day's all-important trip to the doctor might produce.

"Tie a yellow ribbon on the lamp post if the answer is 'yes'," he suggested.

"No," she said, brushing his lips lightly with hers. "I don't want a yellow ribbon to tell you, silly. I want to tell you myself. How about this. You ring the doorbell, and then don't come in until I answer the door. And when I come to the door, I'll say 'yes' or 'no'. And either way, you'll get a good, big hug and a kiss. If it's a 'yes' and the doctor says he sees no complications so far, there will be candles burning in the silver candle sticks on the dining room table. How's that?"

"Sounds like runs," and he pulled her down in his lap on the couch and blew a raucous, sloppy wet BRRRRAAPP!! at the base of her throat.

"Dave, you hog!" she squealed and then grabbed his curly perm with both hands and kissed him full on the mouth, turning the porcine epithet into a term of endearment.

How about London broil and twice-baked potatoes to go with the candle light?" Dave asked boyishly. "Maybe pinkish red in the middle and light tan along the edges?"

"Will that be medium rare or medium well?" my good sir.

His answer was to open her blouse one more button and make another diving attempt at a BRRRRAAPP!! on her chest. Patricia ducked away and rolled him off the couch and onto the carpeted floor.

Patricia fell on top of him and they both laughed until they were breathless. "Dave, if you don't stop doing that, I'm going to put salt in your shorts when I fold them."

"Promises, promises." Then he helped her to her feet and they climbed the stairs, arms around each other's waists.

Just thinking about Dave's BRRRRAAPPs made her check to make sure her top button was fastened. Silly boy-man!

After work that day, Patricia had just about driven the Giant Market's meat manager crazy trying to find the perfect London broil. Not too thick or it might not get done. Not too thin or it might be too dry, especially if he was a little late. And then those Idahos! She'd never seen such a collection of misshapen, scrawny, lumpy baking potatoes in her life. She finally had to buy two five-pound bags in order to get at least three (two for Dave, one for her) which were appropriate for the ritual of twice baking. Baked once, sliced in half the long way, scooped out with the still-warm potato mixed with cheddar cheese, repacked into the scooped-out shells, and then warmed in the oven until the cheese melted.

After checking for the third time to make sure that everything was on hand, including a chilled six-pack of caffeine-free Diet Coke, she collapsed in the living room in front of the TV and kicked off her shoes. Thirty minutes later she turned off the TV, not remembering one thing about the sitcom she had just watched. She picked up her Bible and turned to the first book of first Samuel. Hannah had wanted a baby, too. Wanted one so badly that she promised him to God's service. She had already discussed with Dave her desire to have a baby dedicated as soon as it was a month old. She could picture Dave holding their baby in a white gown, with her at his side, and Pastor Jim asking them in front of the entire eleven o'clock congregation if they would raise this child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Oh yes! Pastor Jim. We will! We will! We will teach this precious child whom God has given to love the Lord, to accept the blood of Jesus Christ as a supreme sin sacrifice, to seek the power of the Holy Spirit, to pray for the protection of the Holy Angels. We will, Pastor Jim. In the presence of God and this company, we promise that we will!

Patricia dozed for a while and then woke with a start to realize that it was time to plug in the electric grill and get the London broil started. The Idahos were already making amends for lack of shapeliness by filling the kitchen with the warm, homey aroma of baked potatoes. Earlier she had unwrapped the meat, washed it thoroughly, and then rubbed it on both sides with Dave's favorite steak seasoning salt. Now she positioned it carefully on the grill. Soon the London broil was sizzling quietly and vying with the potatoes for the best smell in the house.

Just as Patricia was thinking it was time to turn the London broil over, the phone rang.

"Hell-o!" she said merrily. "Dave? Dave-- Dave, where are you?" She switched hands and pressed the ear piece firmly against her ear in a desperate effort to hear more clearly. "You what? But-- But, Dave--" She listened silently for several minutes, her face white as chalk. "I will, Dave. I promise. As soon as I hang up. And Dave-- I love you, too, Dave. And I'll be praying for you."

Numbly she depressed the hook switch to get a dial tone and punched in seven digits. Then she unplugged the broiler while the phone rang three times.

"Wesley Parsonage," said Pastor Jim's warm and familiar voice.

Then the tears came. Scalding, profuse, salty, extended. She released her hold on the receiver and slumped to the floor, continuing to cry hideously. She was totally oblivious to the tiny voices coming from the phone handset lying on the carpet.

Over and over Jim called her name. "Patricia. Patricia? Patricia! Are you all right." In the background, he could hear crying but he couldn't get her to speak into the phone. Dumbly he handed the phone to Debra.

"Patricia, this is Debra. Can you hear me? What's wrong?" Nothing on the other end but continued crying.

"Jim, I think we better get over there fast. Jessi's in her bedroom so the twins will be okay."

The pastor responded by pulling on a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt. "Let's go!"

No one answered the door bell at 1425 East Cedar Street but when Debra walked around the corner of the house and looked in a side window, she could see Patricia lying on the carpet in the arch between the kitchen and living room. "Try the door," she said rushing back to the front of the house. "I think she may be sick."

Jim and Debra knelt by Patricia's side where a sizable dampness could be felt on the carpet from her crying. Jim felt for her pulse while Debra took out a clean tissue and mopped her face a little. Finally the younger woman stirred, moaned softly, and slowly opened her eyes.

"Patricia, are you all right?" asked Jim, leaning over to put his face squarely in her line of vision.

When she nodded her head, Debra helped her into a sitting position on the carpet.

"What happened," Jim asked. "Did you fall? Are you sick?"

"I -- I -- I'm all right. It's Dave. He just called."

"What about Dave? Was he in an accident?"

"He called from Carlisle, the county prison."

"The prison?" prompted Debra.

"He was arrested on the way home from his class at Shippensburg," Patricia managed to choke out amidst renewed sobbing.

"I told him that red sports--" Jim started to crack.

"He said they charged him with sexually assaulting a minor! Did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous?" More sobbing, mostly dry by now.

"Do you know who he is supposed to have assaulted?" asked Jim gently.

The sobbing resumed and the Hogans had to wait a few minutes until Patricia got control again. "He didn't even know himself. Said he wouldn't talk to anyone without a lawyer. But then some policeman came on the line and I asked him who the girl was supposed to be. And he said, 'T - T - Tessa Stetson'," she stammered. "Can you believe that? Dave loves that little girl like his own daughter. The worst thing he's guilty of is spoiling her rotten," and she half smiled in spite of the circumstances.

"We'll take you down there right away," said Jim as Debra rose and hurried over to turn off the oven. The burning potatoes had make the kitchen fairly smokey.

"No, we can't. Dave said no one but a lawyer can see him until tomorrow. I'm supposed to call somebody right away. Do you know . . .?"

Jim and Debra's eyes met above Patricia's bowed head.

"Call Paul!" they said in unison, with a touch of gaiety in spite of the grave circumstances. When Patricia looked up with a puzzled expression, Debra explained. "Paul Donaldson has got to be the most effective defender of Christian causes in the country. He used to attend our church in Ashtabula shortly after he got out of law school. Worked out of a store front back then but moved down to Washington to be closer to the First Amendment action. I think the ACLU has him on their list of the ten most hated lawyers."

"Yes, and his business card is the most unusual one I've ever seen. It has a phone number plus two words-- and nothing else. Those words are 'Call Paul' and that's exactly what I'm going to do right now."

Patricia gave Debra a hug and beamed a teary smile of thanks at Jim. You know Dave and I can't pay for a big-time lawyer," Patricia said hesitantly. We're just barely making it now with Dave taking classes and with the ba--"

"Hey, tonight was your appointment!" Debra exclaimed. "What's the news?"

"Well, I had promised Dave he'd be the first to know, either way. But when he called from the prison, I completely forgot about my appointment until he'd hung up. We really didn't have very long to talk. But I'm just bursting to tell somebody and I can't think of anyone I'd rather tell first than you two." Now Patricia truly smiled for the first time since Jim and Debra had arrived. "I'm pregnant and everything's fine!"

Debra hugged her and Jim shook her hand in true pastoral fashion. "There are two things which are true signs of a growing church. Young couples and new babies."

"Right now, though, we need to concentrate on getting Dave a good lawyer. You two pray Donaldson will have some free time while I-- 'call Paul!'" and the last two words were chanted in unison by all three.

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