May. 14th, 2011

"I'm glad you could make it at such a late hour," said Pete Fontaine, smiling. The Sherriff held his coffee cup in one hand and opened the door to the courts building with the other. Jimmy Thibodaux grunted and shuffled through the door. His slippers and pajama bottoms were visible under the long hem of his overcoat.

"I sure hope this is something especially good, Pete," said Jimmy, eying Pete's coffee with envy. "I'm getting to the age where falling asleep doesn't come so easy. No matter what happens, I'm not getting any more shut-eye tonight."

"Oh, I think you'll like this," replied Pete, ushering Jimmy into the New Wing. "You're the attorney for Simon Beudot in the Hopley murder case, right?"

"I was," said Jimmy. "Well, I suppose I still am, technically, but we're out of appeals and he's not eligible for parole, so I haven't had to do anything on the case in, oh, twenty years almost." He cocked an eye at Pete suspiciously. "You had better get to the point, Sherriff."

"Forensics has advanced a lot in the past two decades, counselor," said Pete. "There are technologies available now that weren't on option when Simon was arrested. Well, Fate dropped a gift in our laps tonight, Jimmy. Remember Louie Primaux, the guy you argued should have been the prime suspect in the case instead of your client?"

"Sure, the guy Simon saw hanging around the Hopley house." Jimmy stopped dead in the hall. "He confessed?" he asked, his heart suddenly racing.

"Well, sort of," said Pete. He took Jimmy's arm. "Best for you to just see for yourself."

Pete guided them into Court Nine. Judge Foster and some of his staff were there, all of whom looked at least as sleepy as Jimmy. There was also Doctor Voigt, the county medical examiner, and Eunice Cross, the district attorney.

"Pete, what say we get this show on the road so we can all get home in time to watch the last of the infomercials, hmm?" said Judge Foster tartly.

As Jimmy slipped into a seat, Doctor Voigt and Sherriff Fontaine puttered around a cart. It had a power pack and a processor array on a bottom shelf, and a large box sitting on the top. The lid of the box was glass, frosted over with condensation. Doctor Voigt wheeled the cart into the middle of the court, checked the power leads, and opened the lid. Inside was a human head, its eyes closed, its neck submerged in a shallow bath of dark fluid.

The few people in the court gasped. Judge Foster leaned forward. Pete picked up a microphone.

"Are you Louie Primaux?" he asked.

The throat of the head worked, and the mouth opened. "Yes," it croaked, its eyes still closed. Its voice had a kind of mechanical wheeze.
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