Bill Todd -- BOLLINGER: A Novel of the Prairie
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 Chapter 15

Dirty Books

The clock radio went off at seven, but Howie then went back to sleep, only vaguely troubled by the banalities of the local disk jockey. It was another hour and a half before the phone rang. He had never heard Amanda's voice on the telephone before, and it thrilled him with its respectability. He marvelled that anyone so cool and collected should have allowed him to disarray her, much less do what he had done. She apologized for waking him and remarked, rather tartly,

"I thought that I'd better call a busy man in the middle of a trial early before he got started."

"Today's a free day. It took us two days to select a jury, and the trial starts tomorrow."

Howie then went on quickly to apologize for turning up at her house as he had.

"I couldn't imagine what you'd think, but I couldn't think where else to go."

"It was a surprise, certainly, but I wasn't upset. It was rather interesting, really. As you saw, it delighted Chuck."

"Yes, I was aware of that. I also sensed some disapproval on your part of my goings on with Danny."

"Not really. I was just having fun teasing you. Particularly since I could do it without Chuck's knowing. You can do anything you want to Danny as long as you tell me about it."

Howie wasn't sure how to reply, and, before he could, Amanda said,

"There is a problem, though. Chuck's rather suspicious."

"Not of me, is he?"

"No. But he thinks I'm having an affair with someone."

"What happened?"

"I got back rather late on Saturday, and you can tell when someone has had sex. There's a look and even a smell. I did buy a brand new blouse and slip, but he was making all sorts of sly remarks."

"Was he angry?"

Amanda's voice was again the epitome of sophistication.

"But of course not. You should know better than that. He was pleased as punch and wanted details. I undressed slowly in front of him, denied everything, and stepped into the shower. When I came out, he made love to me rather frantically. That's another reason he was in such a good mood when you turned up later."

"Well, it sounds as if everyone's having a good time, you most of all."

"I don't like it, though. I want to be above suspicion as far as he's concerned. Would you mind if we didn't meet alone for a while, at least until he calms down? If we aren't careful, we'll get drawn into his little game."

"Maybe we could arrange it so you had more time afterwards. We could have sex first, and then eat."

"Perhaps, but not for a while. In the meantime, we'll invite you over, and then start having lunch together openly. I think Bollinger should be able to deal with that."

When Howie hung up, he was disappointed, but not surprised. He was also convinced that Amanda really was miffed over Danny, and that there would be no more of those sessions in the car for some time, perhaps never again. On the other hand, Howie felt grateful to Amanda for initiating him. If, by great good fortune, things should progress in that direction with Barbara Bowen, he would at least know what to do.

By the time Howie was organized, he was due to meet Sam Herz for lunch at the Krazy Karavan. The Karavan, an unprepossessing building that looked like a converted garage, was really a teen-age hangout. However, when the teen-agers were in school, it was approachable. It was also one of few places where one could go without meeting members of Bollinger's ruling professional-business elite. As Sam remarked when he sat down with Howie,

"It's good to get away from the election talk. None of them care about Kennedy and Nixon, it's just this awful boring local stuff."

"Yeah. Well, at least I guess you can say that democracy is alive and well in Bollinger. But something else happened. Chuck Winton got me a date with a schoolgirl out at St. Monica's."

Sam was at first incredulous, but, once it was explained, he responded,

"Good for you. Are you going to tell her that you're prosecuting a dirty book store?"

"I think I may. Chuck let her think that I was an undergraduate, but, on the phone, she sounds very sophisticated. I don't think she'll be bothered to know who I am, and she'll be amused at the part about the book store."

"I saw Vic Olafson yesterday. He seems to be having a great time confiscating dirty books. I bet he sneaks them off and reads them."

"There is something a little perverse about Vic. He gets a glint in the eye, and you can't tell what he might do. He was really in his element when he was interrogating young Whitney."

Herz nodded in agreement and added,

"He certainly is effective, but with definite paranoid tendencies."

The food then came, and there was a silence while they went to work on it. After Howie had eaten half his hamburger, he said,

"In the course of this case, I've discovered how to distinguish pornography from serious literature that happens to involve sex. It doesn't have too much to do with the skill of the author."

Herz looked puzzled, and Howie explained,

"Some books are organized around sex. The author decides in advance that he's going to have a certain number of sex scenes, and then puts in filler leading up to them. The reader knows he won't have too many pages to go before he gets to the next one. If the author is good, he may put in good material in between, and also have good characters. But it's still pornography."

"Ok. So a bad writer can write non-pornography that has lots of sex in it, and which is bad literature, but still isn't organized around sex. Right?"

"Yes. The writer is just trying to develop his characters and his plot, and he happens to describe sexual activity along with other kinds of activity. But, no matter how badly he does it, he still isn't writing pornography."

"I can hardly wait to hear you hit the jury with that one."

"It's a straight-forward argument. Pornography is what is designed to appeal to a prurient, meaning erotic, interest. A novel that's organized around sex scenes is designed to appeal to such an interest. Therefore, it's pornography. Mike Abbott knowingly sells such books. Therefore, he's guilty."

Herz remained unimpressed.

"I've been wondering what the hell to do with Abbott when he's convicted and placed on probation. I guess I needn't worry."

When Howie said nothing, Herz added,

"That reminds me. Your friend Sykes, remember the one who threatened you? Well he got straight probation. In my pre- sentence report I recommended jail as strongly as I know how. I had lots of grounds for it, and I even mentioned that incident with you in the courthouse corridor. If it were anyone but Judge Doan, I'd be amazed. Do you think he's on the take?"

Howie, only moderately disappointed at this piece of news, responded,

"It wouldn't surprise me. Of course, he's also alcoholic and stupid. Doesn't he ever send anyone to jail?"

"He'll send a college kid to jail very quickly if he's caught shoplifting. He has it in for anyone who might think he's too good for Bollinger. But he seems to like bar-room brawlers like Sykes. If Sykes gives you any trouble, I can get him on probation violation. Maybe I can even if he doesn't. It's a condition of probation not to go into bars and not to associate with criminals. Sykes doesn't know anywhere else to go, and he hardly knows anyone who isn't a criminal. As a favor to you, Vic Olafson might have a tail put on him. An undercover man probably wouldn't have to spend more than a half hour of his time to nab him."

"Well, I'm not really worried about him, but I'd rather not meet him on Main Street every day."

When Howie returned to his office, he found Olafson waiting for him. Vic could hardly contain himself. As Howie led him into his office, he exploded,

"What the hell are you trying to do, Howie? You're only placing one book in evidence, and it's written by a lady who teaches at Oxford University. Abbott must have got it by accident. It's the only book he's ever sold that's got no dirt in it."

"It's organized entirely around sex, Vic. Everyone sleeps with everyone else, and every sentence leads up to the next encounter. It's the clearest case I've ever seen."

Olafson drew a deep breath.

"It's entirely hands off about the sex. It doesn't even say things like, 'He felt his dick itch as he tore off her panties.'"

Howie laughed,

"Where did you get that sentence, Vic? One of your own? You can get people excited without saying things like that. You say enough to get their imaginations started in the right direction. That's all it takes."

"I've confiscated picture books that'll knock the jury's eyes out. Aren't you even going to use them?"

"This is an important case. Let me win it on its merits without turning the whole thing into a peep show."

The next day, Howie felt more confident than ever as he launched into his opening arguments. Olafson several times covered his eyes with his hand. Even Sturgis looked wonderingly at Howie. At one point, where Howie felt he was making a particularly telling point, he saw Sturgis and Olafson exchange looks.

After adjournment for the day, Sturgis caught Howie up as he was leaving the courthouse.

"I was a bit puzzled by your choice of literature there, Howie."

"The argument is clear enough, isn't it?"

"Yes. It would go well at our little literary club. However, arguments that are good there aren't ordinarily effective in court."

"Vic Olafson wants me to focus on all those dirty picture books."

"Yes. Well, of course, almost any other prosecutor would. I do admire your determination to take the high road here, Howie. On the other hand, I'd rather win this case in a court where it might mean something."

Howie nodded, and then spoke with some irritation.

"What's really wrong is the way the law is drafted. If they don't want dirty pictures to be sold, they should say so. Instead, the law talks about the intentions of the author."

"I'm afraid it's drafted so that it can be applied to some pretty good books, as well as the ones my client sells. That, at least, is going to emerge from this trial. But, Howie, won't Ken Seitz be awfully angry with you if there's a quick verdict of innocence?"

"I suppose he won't be too thrilled. Oh well, I knew I'd run afoul of him sooner or later."

After they separated, Howie realized that everyone, including Sturgis, thought that the verdict was a foregone conclusion. Howie knew that juries were supposed to be tricky, but he had had no difficulty with them before. There had been one case of arson where the arguments had been particularly complex. There was a great deal of conflicting testimony, and there had been a number of different possible scenarios of action. If a jury could follow that, why couldn't it absorb the fact that, under the law, pornography need not involve a picture of a sexual organ?

Muttering to himself, Howie returned to his apartment. He still thought the trial was going well, but no one else did. He looked forward to an evening of reading, the book to be as far removed as possible from pornography.

Friday was a day for expert witnesses, most of them from the departments of English and philosophy at Orrville College. Howie and Sturgis questioned and cross-examined them, and they all enjoyed themselves. The jury might have been left behind, but, at that rate, no more harm was being done.

Chuck Winton, having no further appointments, came over in the middle of the afternoon for the examination of the last witness. Afterwards, Howie introduced him to Olafson, and they went out for refreshments. Winton remarked,

"That was interesting. It wasn't what I expected, though. I thought it was a matter of browbeating witnesses."

Olafson answered him, half humorously,

"It is supposed to be. You saw two good lawyers, each one trying to lose this case."

Winton asked him why. Olafson replied,

"Sturgis wants to lose quickly so he won't have to waste time here before he wins an appeal in a higher court. Howie wants to lose because he thinks anyone has a right to read anything. Isn't that right, Howie?"

Howie started to reply seriously, but then said,

"After Ken Seitz gets through with me, and I'm out of a job, I might want to write pornography myself."

It wasn't long before Olafson excused himself and left. When he was out of earshot, Chuck said,

"A curious man. I liked him, though. He must be an unusual policeman."

"Not so much. He has some eccentricities, but he has most of the same attitudes as the others. Among other things, he loves interrogations."

"I wouldn't want to have him interrogate me. If the incident ever blows up, I bet I'll wind up with someone like that on my neck."

Howie reassured him, at which point Chuck invited him home to dinner, saying,

"I'll just call to make sure there's enough to eat."

When he came back, Howie asked,

"Are you sure she really wants me to come?"

"Oh yes. She told me she likes you."

"That's a wonder, considering my arrival at your home on Saturday."

"That wouldn't bother Amanda. She's quite a sexy little thing, but she likes to pretend to be a bit of a prude. I dare say she'll put on something that looks modest but actually reveals quite a lot before we get there."

Bill Todd -- BOLLINGER: A Novel of the Prairie
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