Whiplash--Part XI--Law of the Land
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mal and Simon meet their new lawyer, and the lawyer meets a new challenge.


Jeffrey Howerton smoothed his hair back carefully before disembarking from the hovercraft. He’d been asleep when Tom Bridgman had waved him about clients being held at the Alliance garrison. And while normally he would not have answered a wave at such an hour, he could not ignore any wave from Bridgman. They had been friends for as long as he could remember, and Tom was not one to call in the middle of the night unless there was some emergency.

Howerton was vaguely intrigued by Tom’s description of the clients and the situation. It wasn’t often that Tom had such glowing praise for a client, and Howerton was somewhat curious to meet Malcolm Reynolds. Like most people on Core worlds, he had seen the Miranda broadcast and wondered privately about the man who had orchestrated its release. And the fact that Tom had represented him on other charges made him that much more of a curiosity.

Stepping smartly to the entrance of the garrison, Howerton gave the guard his best professional smile as he handed over his ident card for scanning. The guard looked carefully at his scanner display and Howerton was a bit taken aback. He had assumed that security at the garrison would be of the nondescript variety, as there was no active threat to the garrison of which he was aware. Finally, the guard returned his card and consulted a roster. “I’m sorry, Mr. Howerton,” he said after a moment. “There is no record of any of the prisoners in the holding cells requesting an advocate.”

Howerton smiled in what he hoped was a winning way. “That is because the request came to me via the wife of one of the prisoners. I have been retained to represent Malcolm Reynolds and Simon Tam.”

“Excuse me a moment,” the guard replied, turning his back on Howerton and speaking quietly into his headset.

Howerton’s mind whirred with possibilities. He’d never encountered such trouble simply getting into a jail to see his client. Feeling increasingly uneasy, he stood waiting for the guard to finish his conversation. After an interminable time, the guard turned his full attention back to Howerton.

“You have been cleared to meet with the detainees,” he said, pushing a button to allow Howerton to move freely through the gate. “Proceed to the first door on the right. They will be brought to you shortly.”

Howerton nodded. “Thank you,” he said, picking up his briefcase.

“Sir?” the guard called.


“You’ll have to leave that here with me,” the guard said.

“You’re kidding, right?” Howerton said, his ears turning slightly pink. “I will of course need to take notes when I speak with my clients. I need my case.”

“Sorry, sir,” the guard replied, though his face was a perfect blank. “Regulations prohibit any kind of baggage in the interrogation area.”

“Fine,” Howerton said, sighing at the idiocy of bureaucracy. “Perhaps I could at least retrieve a pad and pen from the case before you take it?”

The guard quickly produced a sheet of paper and a pencil from the desk behind him. “I hope these will be satisfactory.”

Howerton blinked in disbelief for a moment before recovering his composure. “I don’t think I’ll even ask why I can’t use my own,” he said sardonically.

“Best not to, sir,” the guard replied without a trace of humor.

Howerton took the proffered supplies and walked through the first door, shaking his head with disbelief.


“Get up,” the guard said loudly, sliding the door of the holding cell open.

Mal sat up slowly, stretching cramped muscles in the bright light. Simon jerked awake, sitting up quickly enough to make his head spin for a moment. “What’s going on?” he asked, suppressing a yawn.

“Your lawyer’s here,” the guard replied. “Waiting in the interrogation room.”

“Lawyer?” Simon asked. Turning to Mal with a look of confusion, he asked, “We have a lawyer?”

“Looks like,” Mal replied.

“How’d we get a…”

“Don’t know, and don’t rightly care,” Mal replied quickly. “I expect we’ll find out all about it in a minute or two, if you’ll get up and follow this fine Alliance officer.” So saying, he held out his hands to be cuffed.

The guard made quick work of the job, and Mal and Simon were herded down the corridor and past Eve’s cell. Eve sat up, rubbing her eyes in the bright light and looking curiously at their progress until they rounded the corner and she could see them no more. Shivering, she thought of how very alone she felt without them across the corridor.


“I would appreciate you removing the cuffs while I speak with my clients,” Howerton said evenly to the guards that escorted Mal and Simon into the room.

“Sorry, sir, it’s….” the guard began.

Howerton held up his hand. “Let me guess. It’s against regulations.”

“That’s right, sir,” the guard replied stiffly.

Howerton nodded, sharing a disbelieving glance with Mal. “I assume I can speak with them privately,” he prompted.

“Of course, sir,” the guard said, turning on his heel to leave the room.

Howerton turned and smiled at the two cuffed men. “My name is Jeffrey Howerton. Captain Reynolds, I have been retained by your wife to represent you and Dr. Tam in any inquiry.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Mal said. “I’d shake your hand, but I’m fair certain it would be against regulations.” He smiled, the glint in his eye causing Howerton to laugh aloud.

“Most likely,” he said.

Simon spoke. “How did River come to…choose you?”

“By way of an old friend to all of us, I expect,” Howerton said. “I got a call from Tom Bridgman. She called him to get some legal advice, and he sent me.”

Mal nodded, profoundly grateful that River had apparently not chosen to come to the garrison with her guns blazing and her blades drawn. “How much trouble are we in?” he asked, direct as always.

“Well, from what I can gather, the garrison Commander, a man by the name of Crenshaw, is under the impression that you two helped a fugitive escape from Ita. That true?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Mal replied. “Though we didn’t know she was a fugitive at the time.”

Howerton leaned forward, tapping his fingertips on the desk. “Perhaps you’d better tell me exactly what happened.”

Mal nodded at Simon, and Simon told the story as succinctly as possible. Howerton jotted down a few notes, asking minimal questions until Simon finished.

“So, Captain Reynolds was not even aware that she was aboard Serenity when you left Ita?” Howerton said.

“That’s right,” Simon confirmed. “He didn’t know what was going on until we were in the air.”

Howerton sighed. “Would be a hard sell, but I could probably convince the commander to let you go on that basis alone, Captain. Only problem with that is that it doesn’t help Dr. Tam at all.”

Mal nodded. “So, what else you got?”

Howerton stared at the wall for a moment, the wheels turning in his sharp mind. “I suppose a case could be made that Dr. Tam was acting in accord with his oath as a physician. Are you certain the woman would have died if she’d been left there?”

“Within reason,” Simon replied.

“Problem with that is that it was part of her sentence to hang until the morning,” Howerton murmured, thinking aloud. “Of course, we could argue that it was cruel and unusual punishment, and that you were unfamiliar with the customs on Ita, and that…” His words trailed off for a moment. Pulling himself back to the present, he said, “Of course, depending on the mood of the Commander, he could say that ignorance of the laws and customs of Ita was no excuse. We’ll have to see.”

“Worse case scenario?” Mal asked quietly.

Howerton sighed. “Worst case, you’ll be extradited to Ita to stand trial for aiding and abetting a fugitive. Or tried here on Persephone for transporting her over interplanetary boundaries.”

“And best case?” Simon asked.

“It stops here, with a conversation with Commander Crenshaw and a slap on the wrist for troubling him.”

“And for Eve?” Simon asked. “What will happen to Eve?”

Howerton frowned. “I imagine she will be extradited to Ita without question. And once she’s there, she will be at the mercy of the court.”

“The same court that sentenced her to begin with?” Mal asked.

Howerton nodded sadly. “The very same,” he confirmed. Shaking himself slightly, he continued, “But we need to concentrate on you two right now. With your permission, I’ll ask to have a word with the Commander in your behalf.”

Mal nodded. “I’d take it as a kindness,” he said.

Howerton nodded and knocked on the door to get the attention of the guard. “Don’t worry, gentlemen,” he said as he headed out the door. “I won’t be long.”

Mal and Simon stared after him. “Think he can pull it off?” Simon asked quietly.

“Sure as hell hope so,” Mal replied.


Commander Crenshaw grunted. “You don’t understand, Mr. Howerton,” he said. “This guy Shultzer doesn’t feel inclined to let it go.”

“Why does that matter?” Howerton said, pressing the Commander as carefully as he could. “Shultzer is not the authority here.”

“No, but he’s the authority on Ita,” Crenshaw said doggedly. “I’ve checked him out, and he is what he says he is. Chairman of the town council, closest thing to an official they got. And the local judge there confirms that he’s telling the truth of what happened.”

“But it’s inhumane,” Howerton said. “Can you imagine what that poor woman went through? It’s no wonder that the doctor stepped in. You would have done no less if you had been there, I expect.”

“If I had been there,” Crenshaw said evenly, “I would have upheld the law of Ita. I find it more than a little ironic that Reynolds and his doctor would argue for Alliance interference in a local matter. Seems contrary to what they say the Independents were fighting for back during the war. If I start overturning the decisions of some judge in a backwater settlement on some Rim world, there’ll be a stink about it, you can be sure.”

“So, if I can convince Shultzer to drop the charges, you have no problem with letting my clients go?” Howerton persisted.

“Hell, if you can convince him to drop the charges, I’ll buy you a drink at the establishment of your choice,” Crenshaw said. “Save me a mountain of paperwork not to process those two.”

“How much time will you give me?” Howerton said.

Crenshaw rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Suppose I can hold it off for another day.”

Howerton smiled. “Thank you, Commander.”


“So, it would seem that Shultzer is the only thing standing between your husband and freedom,” Howerton said, sitting at Serenity’s table with River.

“And he won’t see you,” River said flatly.

Howerton rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. “Not so far,” he admitted. “But I’ve got the rest of the day to try to talk some sense into him.”

“Hard to do if he ain’t willin’ to talk,” Zoe stated blandly.

“True enough,” Howerton said ruefully. “But I’m not through trying yet. I just wanted to come and give you an update. I need to go home for a bit, and check in with my office to cancel a few other things. But I should be able to start in again with him in a couple of hours.”

River nodded, thinking that it would not take that long to persuade Shultzer to her way of thinking, given the proper incentive.


To be continued


Sunday, March 23, 2008 9:49 AM


Thanks for not making us wait! Glad to see progress, and wondering what River is going to do for her solution. Wondering why security is so tight - is this a plot device I read?

Sunday, March 23, 2008 10:16 AM


I hope Howerton also talks to the judge on Ita. Might be more fruitful trying to get him to see sense than the vindictive and totally psychopathic Shultzer I'm thinking. As for River's solution, if that comes to pass a lot of people are going to wish they had never sided with Shultzer in the first place... Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, March 23, 2008 11:36 AM


It is nice to come back after awhile and find a bunch of fic waiting to be read. Nice job over the past few chapters. Look forward to what river comes up with.

Sunday, March 23, 2008 4:40 PM


I see the wheels are turning> Just wondering how fast they'll turn with the "proper incentive"

Monday, March 24, 2008 4:18 AM


I'm really enjoying this story. I hope your thinking about letting Shultzer live at the end of this. You write such interesting bad guys(and Gals) Be a shame to only have the crew meet up with his brand of cruelty only once.

Monday, March 24, 2008 10:44 PM


The Feds really mean business if they won't even let Howerton take in his briefcase! What, do they think it's like James Bond's? Great stuff - and now River's getting involved.


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