HomeNovelInvisible Hand – Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Night on the Town

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In which Niall meets a bartender and some fellow jailbirds.

Everything began happily, with the friends meeting in Santa Fe at a nice restaurant. Since Niall was the new guy, they had selected a Spanish cuisine establishment so he could find out about the real food of Mexico. There was much laughter, and though Niall was not usually a drinker, he did have two glasses of wine with the meal.

One of the “jokes” was to have Niall sample some rather hot dishes without telling him how hot they were. But Niall had been living in a culture in which very spicy foods were standard. The party was quite impressed when Niall not only ate the hot food without appearing to notice the “flavor” but even asked for seconds of one jalapeno-flavored dish.

After that he could do no wrong. When they had finished the meal, it was suggested that they go to another establishment that several of them knew, which served a very good home-brewed beer. That was such fun that still another establishment was suggested, and after a time Niall not only forgot how many places they had been to but that he really had no head for liquor.

By then the party was down to just three, each of whom was still steady on their feet but feeling no pain. After they each had a beer, one suggested that they show Niall how to drink tequila. They adjourned to the bar where they asked for three tequilas. The bartender gave then a long look and finally acceded to their request.

It was Niall’s turn to pay, so he told the computer he was paying for the three tequilas. They were placed on the bar. The others each demonstrated the appropriate technique for aficionados of the drink. Niall was not as steady as usual and did not demonstrate the requisite flair to prevent the others from laughing at his attempt. He immediately took umbrage and demanded another tequila for another try. By this time the bartender thought he had already consumed more than enough. He refused Niall’s order. Niall, already smarting under the laughter of his friends, took offense and began shouting at the bartender that he had every right to another drink and to get it on the bar quickly or he would have the bartender fired. After a couple of further exchanges, Niall leaned over the bar and took a swing at the bartender. The blow was a flush hit and knocked the man into the glassware behind him. The result was broken glass, a loud crash which effectively silenced the rest of the bar, and the bartender bleeding from the mouth, nose, and several cuts from the broken glass.

Niall’s friends were horrified and grabbed his arms to restrain him. Niall was rather surprised at the effectiveness of his blow and stood unresisting. He gave a bemused smile and said, “That will teach him to refuse my business.”

The police were called by the computer and arrived within five minutes. Niall was taken into custody and his friends were advised to take a cab home. Within 10 minutes, Niall was getting to know the inside of the Santa Fe municipal jail. His first intelligent move in the last several hours was to lie down on the bed and go to sleep.

He awoke to conversation from his cellmates, a serious hangover, and the realization that he was in trouble. He groaned and tried to sit up. This brought him to the attention of his new companions. One was an old man who had skin like leather, bleary eyes, and was missing several teeth. He had a neat haircut and clean clothes except for the spills of what looked like wine down the front of the shirt.

The other was a much younger man whom Niall would have said was about 30. He had dirty blonde hair, needed a shave, and was wearing all whites. He could have been a payer, except that Niall figured that Payers were not likely to be in jail. He looked healthy enough. In fact he was quite heavily muscled but had a narrow waist. His teeth looked nearly perfect in a lightly-tanned even face. One could even say he was handsome but he had probably looked better ten years before because there were telltale signs of dissipation around the bloodshot eyes.

“Good morning,” the younger man said. “Glad to have you with us. I’m Jean Baudin and this old timer is called Whiskey Pete. I don’t know where he got that name, since he obviously prefers wine.”

Jean extended a hand to Niall, which Niall shook and used to sit up. He wasn’t sure that was wise as it made his temples pound worse than ever but he found if he closed his eyes and held very still, after a little while the discomfort eased and he thought he might not have to vomit.

“I’m Niall Campbell,” he croaked. “Is there anything for me to drink around here?”

“If you are looking for the hair of the dog, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Pete here would have drunk it by now anyway. There are some paper cups here. I can get you some water.”

“Thanks. You’re a life saver.” Niall drank two cups and felt slightly better.

“I’ll bet you’re in for drunk and disorderly,” Jean grinned at Niall.

Then the activities of the night before flooded back to Niall’s memory and he groaned again.

“I’m afraid it was more than that. I think there’s some assault and battery in there, too.” Niall felt even worse thinking about it and ten seconds ago he would have sworn that was impossible.

“Pete here is a resident because they don’t like to have him cluttering up the street for fear he’ll get killed. They also would like to find who gave him the wine but old Pete will never give them a straight story.”

“May I ask your reasons for being here?” Niall thought it only fair they each be revealed.

“I’m here on a bum rap. They arrested me for nothing. I had every right to be there. That owner must have bribed them or have something on them.”

“Sorry, Jean. You lost me there. I’m not thinking too well just yet. Where were you?”

“I was in my house. I was just going to bed when they burst in and grabbed me.”

“I take it you are referring to the police?” Niall was trying to form a mental picture of the event.

“Yes. They had this guy there who said he was the owner. Well, maybe he was but I got a right to a place to live and nobody else was using it, so he has no right to have me arrested.” Jean was quite indignant.

“Had the owner said you could stay there?”

“First time I ever laid eyes on him was when he came in behind the police,” Jean explained.

“Then who told you it was all right for you to stay in that house?” Niall persisted, thinking he had missed something.

“I could see there was nobody there. It was dark inside and there were no cars around. When I went in and looked over the place, it was obvious that nobody lived there. There was no trash in the trash cans. There was no food in the refrigerator or the cabinets. The closets had no clothes in them. I tell you, nobody was living there. So I figure I got squatters’ rights. I got there first. Let other people get their own place.”

“You mean you didn’t go by the housing office first?” Niall was beginning to wonder about this guy.

“They just give you the runaround and half the time they won’t even help you. I mean, I tell them I want a place to stay and they start asking impertinent questions. What business is it of theirs where I stayed before? Who cares whether I work or not. They got to give me a place to live, don’t they? I mean it’s right there in the Ten Rules. It says ‘Necessities are free to all as needed’ and I needed a place, so they got to give me one.”

“Ten Rules?” Niall was a little confused but it took his mind off his misery a little.

“Yeah. You know those ten rules that tell everybody how their money is supposed to work. Well one of them says they got to give you what you need like food and clothes and a house to live in. They got no excuse to arrest me.”

Niall did have some vague recollection about ten rules having to do with the new money, but he hadn’t paid attention to it then and it just had never come up since he got back to the U.S.

“But if you were in somebody else’s house without their permission, weren’t you trespassing?”

“I told you, there was nobody living there. How can I be trespassing when there’s nobody living there? Now if I’d just come in on some family or something, they might have a case. But there was nobody living there. It was an empty house. I have every right to it.” A sudden realization dawned on Jean. “Damn, I bet somebody else is going to move into that house and I was there first. You don’t suppose that guy wasn’t the real owner but just some guy who wanted the place for himself, do you? If that’s what happened, I’m going to kick up quite a fuss. It’s bad enough they arrest me for no reason. But if that guy thinks he’s going to get away with grabbing my house, too, I’ll show him.”

“Well don’t punch him in the face, whatever you do. I don’t think they like that around here.” Niall was thinking of his own troubles.

———-

Later that morning, the cellmates were taken upstairs to the courtroom. The judge sat at her bench near an empty jury box. There were no spectators so far as Niall could see except a couple of idlers in whites near the back of the room.

Whiskey Pete was first. The arresting officer told the judge that Pete had been found on his back in an alley behind a restaurant. Upon investigation it was found that he was “stinking drunk” and unable to walk. The officer had taken Pete to the clinic where he was checked and found to be only drunk. Later the officer had returned and talked to Pete to attempt to ascertain who had given him the alcohol. No bottles had been found near Pete that could not be attributed to those thrown away by the restaurant. The officer had already been to the restaurant to remind the workers there to completely empty all bottles that contained alcohol before throwing them away. They claimed to have done so last night. Pete would not or could not account for the source of the alcohol he had drunk.

The judge commended the officer for his conduct on the case, then turned to Pete. “Pete, why will you not go home when you have a bottle? You know that you could die of exposure out on the streets. You could also be hit by a car. Now I am going to excuse the officer here for disturbing your rest in the alley since it was clear that you were not able to take care of yourself. If you press charges against him I will rule against you. Do you need help to get home?”

“No, your honor. I can walk just fine now. Thank you.” Pete responded and turned away to go.

Niall was astonished. It seemed that the policeman was the one on trial. Pete had been in jail and the arresting officer was the one who had to justify his actions in dragging a drunk off the streets. What kind of crazy court system did they have out here?

Jean was the next brought before the judge. The arresting officer again stated what he had done.

“Your honor, I was on second shift and making my rounds when I got a call about a trespasser at 432 Winstead. The complainant asserted that he owned the house at that address, and that someone was in the house without permission. I confirmed the identity of the complainant and that he did indeed own the property at 432 Winstead. The complainant accompanied me to the property. We entered the residence and found Mr. Jean Baudin apparently preparing for bed. He expressed outrage and told us to leave the property immediately. He asserted that the house was his. I activated the computer in the living room and pointed out to him that it confirmed the complainant as the owner of the residence. Mr. Baudin continued to assert that the house was his and refused to vacate the premises. The owner asked me to remove Mr. Baudin, since Mr. Baudin was adamant about remaining. I therefore exercised force to remove Mr. Baudin from the premises.

“Upon reaching the street, I released Mr. Baudin. The owner had brought Mr. Baudin’s suitcase and clothing to the street. Mr. Baudin then packed his clothing and some toiletries in his suitcase and headed for the house again. It was apparent to me that unless physically restrained, Mr. Baudin intended to continue to trespass. Therefore I brought him to jail to await the opening of court this morning.”

The judge turned to Jean and inquired if the officer had correctly described the events of the preceding evening.

“Pretty much, your honor,” Jean replied.” But I want to assure you that there was nobody living in the house when I got there. It was empty and there was no food or clothes or even trash in the trash bins. Nobody was living there and I had every right to move in. I was not bothering anybody. He had no right to have me evicted. I don’t have any money and I needed a house. This house was empty so I took it.”

“Mr. Baudin, the house was owned, and still is owned by Mr. Kitrell. That house is his property. He may leave the house empty if he so chooses. You have no right to use Mr. Kitrell’s property without his consent. In fact, you attempted to use Mr. Kitrell’s property over his objections, expressed directly to you upon the premises in the presence of a witness. Despite being lawfully removed from the premises, you attempted to return to those premises over the expressed objections of Mr. Kitrell. Therefore it is clear that the officer acted within his duty in arresting you and bringing you to jail. You had given every indication of intent to repeat your offense if given the opportunity.”

“You mean, was I going back into my house?” Jean burst in. “You’re darn right I was! I got a right to have a place to live. It’s right there in the Ten Rules. It says ‘Necessities are free to all as needed’ and I sure needed a place to spend the night. Besides, I was there first. There was nobody there when I got there.”

The judge finally rapped her gavel to end Jean’s advocacy. “Mr. Baudin, you will be silent for a moment and listen to me. The Ten Rules describe the money we use and what it is able to buy. That rule, ‘Necessities are free to all as needed’ means that money is not able to buy necessities. It means that if no one gives you a necessity you have no right to take that necessity. If someone does give you a necessity for whatever reason and that necessity provides you some benefit, then the person who gave it to you will be paid by a payer if their actions result in a net benefit for that pay period. There is no requirement on any individual to provide you with any particular item or service. If someone gives you bread, or a shirt, or allows you to use a building of theirs… it is because they willingly did so. There is no requirement that anyone give you anything unless their actions have prevented you from being able to gain access to necessities. For example, your arresting officer placed you in jail. This was done by the use of force, for you did not go willingly to jail. Having placed you in jail, he was then required to provide you with necessities for your health and well-being while you were so confined. I believe that you were provided with breakfast this morning?”

“Yes, your honor,” Jean admitted.

“Then the officer did his duty toward you. So far as I can see the officer did his duty in every respect. He released you once you were no longer on Mr. Kitrell’s property the first time and it was only when you insisted on returning to that property that he resorted to bringing you to jail. He brought you to this court at the first opportunity so that your case could be adjudicated. The owner and the arresting officer were both acting well within their rights and duties.”

“But your honor, there was nobody in the house. It wasn’t doing anybody any good. And I needed a place to live. It isn’t fair that he should have an extra house when I need a house and have none.” Jean was obviously quite convinced.

“Mr. Baudin,” the judge said, “it is clear to me that you either do not understand or do not wish to admit your guilt in this matter. Therefore, I must ask you whether you will accept my judgment or prefer another court.”

“I don’t understand, your honor,” Jean replied, apparently uncertain for the first time that day.

“The officer brought you to this court because he was the one who had to defend his actions in using force to arrest you. Unless he could show that you were going to continue to use force or were not able to care for yourself, then you would be released immediately. In your case, your persistence in returning to the property of Mr. Kitrell indicated that the officer had to use force to prevent your using force toward Mr. Kitrell in using his property without consent.”

“But you are guilty, it would appear, of a crime against Mr. Kitrell. Therefore, as the defendant, you have the opportunity to choose a court in which your case will be tried. That is, we will attempt to find a court that both you and Mr. Kitrell agree upon as appropriate and hold the case there. Mr. Kitrell has indicated his willingness to have my court try the case. Now I am asking if you also are willing to have my court try the case. If you agree, we can proceed. If you do not agree, then you may select from the available courts in this jurisdiction.

“Do you agree to have your case tried in this court?” the judge repeated the question.

“I guess so.” Jean was uncertain still.

“Do you wish to have an attorney represent you in this matter?” the judge asked.

“Yes, your honor, I do.” Jean now was certain.

“You may leave the courtroom to obtain the services of an attorney. Please return within one hour. There is a terminal just outside the door that you can use. Bailiff, please escort Mr. Baudin to the terminal and see that he is able to use it to get an attorney.”

Niall’s case was the last of the three. He accompanied the arresting officer to the bench to stand before the judge.

“Your honor, I was working the second shift on patrol when I got a call from Mau’s bar on 7th Street about a disturbance. When I arrived, I found the accused being restrained by two other men. The bartender was behind the bar where there was a considerable amount of broken glassware and bottles on the counter behind him. The bartender was also still bleeding from the nose and lip and had some cuts on his back and head from the broken glass. The patrons of the bar asserted that the accused, one Niall Davitt Campbell of Los Alamos, had struck the bartender in the face with his fist one blow, which had caused all the visible damage to the property of the bar and to the bartender’s person.”

“Mr. Campbell was unsteady in his walking and slurred in his speech. The two men holding him had also obviously been drinking but said that they had each had several drinks at several bars. They asserted that Mr. Campbell had been angered when the bartender had refused to sell him further drinks and had punched the bartender once on the face. Mr. Campbell said, ‘That will teach him to refuse me a drink.’ and did not deny having struck the blow. When asked if the bartender had made any move to strike Mr. Campbell, all witnesses agreed that far from having struck Mr. Campbell or having tried to strike Mr. Campbell, the bartender appeared completely surprised when Mr. Campbell struck him. Being thus unprepared for the blow, he had lost his balance and fallen backward into the glassware.”

“In as much as there was considerable evidence that Mr. Campbell had inflicted intentional bodily injury upon the bartender and given Mr. Campbell’s continuing belligerent attitude, I brought Mr. Campbell to jail pending the opening of court this morning.”

The judge turned to Niall, “Do you wish to correct or amend in any way the testimony of the arresting officer?”

“No ma’am. So far as I can remember the officer was completely correct to bring me to jail and used no undue force,” Niall said.

The judge turned back to the officer and asked, “Does the bartender wish to prefer charges against Mr. Campbell?”

“No, your honor. I don’t believe so. I think Ricardo is more embarrassed than anything.”

“You will go contact Ricardo and make quite sure, officially, that he is not pressing charges. I want all the specifics recorded so there is no doubt.”

“Yes, your honor. I would have gotten them last night, but Ricardo needed to get his cuts seen to at the clinic.” The officer hurried out of the room.

“Now then, Mr. Campbell, you understand that you are in a very serious situation here whether Ricardo presses charges or not. You have admitted to striking someone who was not threatening you. You did enough damage to him by that attack that he needed medical attention. You also caused some damages to the property in the bar. Let us dispose of the little matters first. Are you prepared to buy all the destroyed property in the bar?”

Niall did a rough calculation and said,” I believe that I have enough money and I am quite willing to buy everything I broke in the bar, especially if someone will dispose of it properly for me.”

The judge smiled. “In that case, let’s get that done while the officer checks with Ricardo about those charges. Bailiff, a terminal, please.”

The bailiff brought out a TV and set it on the judge’s bench.

“Contact Mau’s Bar and ask to speak to the owner of the broken glassware and bottles.”

In a few moments the voice of someone on the terminal responded, “Yes, your honor?”

“I understand that there were significant damages to your property behind the bar last night due to the actions of one Niall Campbell in assaulting your bartender. Is that correct?”

“Yes, your Honor, it is.”

“Do you have a total cost of the damages to the luxury items destroyed?”

“Yes, your Honor. We were expecting your call. We’ve calculated that the damages come to $638.44 and have so informed the accounts computer, complete with scans of the damage.”

“Mr. Campbell, do you agree to buy the items you damaged in the amount of $638.44?”

Niall intoned, “Your honor I wish to buy the items so described at the price of $638.44. Please debit my account accordingly.”

After the usual confirmations from the computer and the bar’s agreeing to dispose of the broken materials, the judge resumed.

“Why did you strike the bartender?”

“Your honor, I believe it was a combination of things. First and most important, I had drunk too much. Had I not been drunk, I don’t believe I would have struck him for so minor a matter. Second, I was embarrassed because my friends were laughing at me over something silly. Finally, he was refusing to sell me any more drinks. Naturally I took this as criticism of my behavior in having drunk so much. I struck out at him simply because of my mental state. Though this may explain my action, I do not think it in any way excuses my action.”

“I see. I hope you understand, Mr. Campbell that we cannot allow, we cannot tolerate one person physically attacking another person except to defend himself or his property.”

“I do understand that, your honor. I would not have it any other way.”

“I am glad to hear that because if you accept this court you may find my judgment harsh. Are you willing to accept this court?”

“Yes, ma’am. I am prepared to accept this court’s judgment without reservation.”

“Do you wish to have the representation of an attorney?”

“Your honor, I am guilty of unprovoked assault. I have observed your judgments and feel yours will be just in my case. Unless you advise me otherwise, I will forgo an attorney in this case.”

“Very well. Mr. Campbell yours is a particularly serious case for several reasons. First and most obviously, you have inflicted bodily harm on a fellow citizen working to serve you and you did so without provocation. That alone warrants a strong response from this bench. Secondly, you have revealed a weakness with respect to alcohol that makes the offense even worse. Alcohol is readily available in this community. There is no reasonable way that you can be prevented from acquiring alcohol, as a case earlier this morning made abundantly clear. Your weakness, therefore, can be expected to result in further such attacks on your fellow citizens. Finally, the sheer irrationality of the action, its lack of warning signs for the bartender, indicates that there is some other factor that is putting you under considerable stress at what may be a subconscious level.”

“Therefore, Mr. Campbell, these are the alternatives I will present to you.”

“Your first alternative is banishment. You will take yourself from this community and never return. Your reputation will include your actions and a warning from this bench about your unpredictable violence. Few would want to risk working with you. If you return, you will be considered a dangerous outlaw and any citizen may reasonably expect to be attacked by you at any moment. Therefore, your mere physical presence will be considered as a threat to attack.”

“Your second alternative is to wear a collar that will introduce into your blood stream a chemical tranquilizer whenever your emotional State becomes excited. This will prevent your having any strong emotion, whether good or bad. It is only half a life but it will protect others from your irrational attacks.”

By this time Niall was in a cold sweat. His decision to trust this judge appeared to have been completely wrong. His expectations concerning the sentence had been perhaps a 30 day jail term at the worst. But she was talking about lifetime sentences and all for one stupid, heedless punch.

“Your third alternative is as follows. You will give up drinking altogether for the rest of your life. Now I realize and understand that there is no way we can monitor your behavior in this regard. If you choose to go back on your word in this matter, you will be able to drink and we may not find out. But we will add a prohibition on buying alcoholic beverages to your account. This should alert any who would otherwise sell you alcohol.”

“You will also attend Payer School for a full term of instruction, beginning as soon as a replacement can be found for you at your workplace or one week whichever is sooner. At Payer School you will be under observation and you will have opportunities to drink and to lose your temper. Should you do either, you will default to the first alternative above of banishment.

In the event you successfully complete the course of instruction at Payer School and I get good reports on your behavior there, I will remove all restrictions from your account and your record will be cleared in all public records. Of course, should you later appear in court, the judge will have your complete record available.”

“Your honor, the third alternative, Payer School, seems to me the most attractive but I don’t know what Payer School is.”

“Payer School is a school that persons who wish to become Payers are advised to attend before actually becoming Payers. Attending this school is not required for prospective Payers because any mentally competent adult is acceptable as a payer. You will not be required to become a Payer even if you complete Payer School successfully.”

“You should also understand that any work you do while in Payer School will not be paid. Therefore, in effect, by taking this option you lose the opportunity to earn money while in school. Naturally, work you did before entering the school will continue to be considered for payment and your account may grow while you are there.”

“While in Payer School, you will not be allowed to have luxuries nor to spend money. You may not give luxuries to others who are also attending Payer School. They may have some other restrictions but I believe those are the main ones.”

“Your honor, I believe those restrictions are quite acceptable to me. I would like to accept your third alternative as my sentence,” Niall said and bowed his head to the judge.

Things moved quickly then. The arresting officer returned to the court with the deposition from Ricardo saying that he would not press charges. Niall used the terminal outside the court to notify Fred that he needed a replacement at work. Fred said that they would get along without him while he was away, and to watch his step at Payer School and come back clean.

The officer at his elbow said that he would not need to get his things from Los Alamos. At his request they could be put in storage for him there. Niall asked the officer in Los Alamos to get his things from his apartment and put them in storage for him. The officer agreed to do so.

Within the hour Niall was at the bus station headed for Payer School.


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