WWJD Is The Wrong Question

Early June, 1637, Grantville

 

Mouthful of dirt, seasoned with blood.

“Owwwwww . . .” Alyse Glazer blinked, trying to remember the last time she’d fallen off a horse. The horse in question stumbled, dodging something Alyse couldn’t see, and grazed a steel-shod hoof along Alyse’s ribs. The bay filly kept going, but Alyse lost her breath again. Shoving against the fairgrounds livestock arena’s hoof-chewed ground to stand up sent what felt like hot irons through Alyse’s ribs; pain flowed up so fast and hard it felt like lightning torching open a South Texas summer thunderstorm.

Sobrina mia querida,” Uncle Matteo’s voice, as warm a lilt in Tex-Mex Spanish as it had been the day she turned thirteen and fell off the first horse he’d given her a leg up on, murmured in her memory. “Coger el caballo  . . . catch the horse, volver a la montura . . . get back in the saddle. Otherwise the horse will know you can be thrown, and you’ll be afraid he’ll do it again. Don’t let him get the better of you.”

One more time, she pushed against the ground to rise, failing. Alyse slid down, breathing out, right shoulder just not working. “Ayudame, por favor.

If the apprentice couriers heard her raspy almost-whisper, they didn’t appear to understand the words. Hurt, though . . . that, they could savvy clearly enough. Well, here and now how easy a fall off a horse could cripple or even kill a rider wouldn’t be exotic knowledge, Alyse thought. But she’d fallen in front of a baker’s dozen folks supposed to learn what Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño called working miracles with horses. Yesterday she and Rafael de Treviño had taken turns giving standard demonstrations without incident, showing their new apprentices tricks of the trade. Today she’d been supposed to demonstrate brush-country cattle-working skills. But now . . . the teacher couldn’t even stand back up after falling off a horse. That rankled more: she’d fallen, not been thrown. The blaze-faced bay hadn’t bucked. The filly hadn’t even shied.

Una ambulancia,” she tried again. Puzzled faces stared at her. Half the class clustered around, offering to lift her to her feet. “¡Traiga Luis, por favor—andale!

The smallest, blondest boy in class looked dawned-on, turned, and sprinted toward the fairgrounds office. At least he knew who to look for and where to start, she thought. Bueno.

“See what spoiling animals gets you!” a voice said somewhere behind her. Gerhard Rutger, always arguing how much better brute force worked. The stocky twenty-something with the half-sneer habitually fixed on his bearded face added, “Teacher.”

He said it like that wanna-be tough guy’d said “Bitch,” a universe ago, right after Alyse’s Appaloosa fell over the rope he’d jerked across a warm-up alley before the barrel-race quarter-finals her junior year. Once Alyse knew for sure that Sport hadn’t been hurt in the fall, she’d come unwound. She’d just kept planting the hijo de puta back down face-first into the dirt and muck in the pen-alley until he ran out of get-back-up that day. Well before that, his friends had quit calling her, or the spotted horse she’d ridden, names.

“You need to do that again,” Tio Matteo’s ghostly presence suggested from somewhere in her memory, “with this chotacabras, Rutger.”

But she couldn’t. For one thing, she wasn’t seventeen any more. That fight had cost her a much-coveted rodeo scholarship when the one hundred fifty dollar fine kept her from entering any events in the last half of the semester. Alyse never had considered that price too high for keeping stupid adolescent boys from putting Sport in danger, though.

For another thing, her uncle Matteo didn’t live in this universe, even all the way around the world in South Texas. Alyse missed that life more every day, stuck in the middle of the Thirty Years War, trying to keep a roof overhead and food on the table. Sometimes, she felt more like she managed her successes in spite of, rather than with help from, the husband whose new job in West Virginia had brought them to Grantville the summer before the Ring fell.

Matteo’s presence faded as her breathing came back to normal. Alyse pushed against the ground again, intending to scramble to her feet, and pain whited out her mind. She gave up trying to stand up.

“I told you—’ Rutger started to sneer.

Cállate!” That hadn’t been the right thing to say. Here and now a woman had to speak German, or some dialect of it, to be understood. Nobody spoke the quick-liquid border Spanish she’d grown up with or wanted to bother learning it. Alyse felt exactly the same way about Early Modern German; she heard nothing but its misbegotten flavors every day, here and now. Biting off a yelp, she pushed her other elbow into the dirt. Her ribs hurt like fire. Her shoulder . . . just didn’t work.

“Teacher,” Rutger repeated, his voice almost gloating. “These horses are spoiled. They need beating to break their bad habits!”

Alyse froze. If he mistreated the badly frightened filly she’d fallen off of now . . .”No!”

Sturdy youngsters coalesced around their fractious classmate. Another voice—one she’d known for just over a year now—sliced through the chatter, in proper Catalan. “¿Qué ha pasado? What’s happened?”

Me caí de la caballa,” Alyse answered in raspy Tex-Mex. “I fell off.”

¿Se cayo porque?” Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño—her not-so-silent partner in the courier service business—pelted from the office, vaulting the rail fence.

“What made you fall?” Right behind him, nearly under tow by the blond boy, came Luis Ybarra.

Rafael de Treviño stopped two strides away, swept down to lift something, and one-handed her heavy stock saddle, raising it to eye-level. “¡La cincha saltó y Alyse Glazer cayó de la caballa!

That explained how the horse’s quick half-spin separated Alyse, along with the saddle, from its back. Her head and body hurt so much, Alyse could hardly think. Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño, however, had no such impediments. “¿Por qué rompió? Está dañado. Alguien lo cortó.”

“Señor Rafael de Treviño says,” a voice sang out in Amideutsch, “Miz Glaser fell because her saddle is damaged. Someone cut her cinch.” Now Luis knelt at Alyse’s shoulder, cradling her head against his knee with what remained of his right arm. “Aly—Miz Glazer, are you hurt?”

Alyse licked her lips—a mistake, as the salty taste of bloody cow-pen dirt filled her mouth all over again—and tried to answer. All her words still came in Spanish. “I think I broke my collarbone, and the filly busted my ribs when I couldn’t get out of the way.”

“Can you tell me in English?” Luis hovered, eyebrows drawn together into one heavy line straight above a bright-liquid dark-hazel eye, faintly-freckled nose and a fist-sized black eye patch.

“No.” Alyse gave up all pretense. “I can’t remember the words . . . ”

“All right. I heard you.”

He spoke Tex-Mex as easily as Amideutsch, or English, for that matter. Alyse had come to love Luis like the baby brother she’d never had in the three years since he’d turned up in the hospital, a Wartburg survivor with no more notion of how to go home than money to get there on, still recovering from having lost his eye and hand and half his forearm to napalm. He’d only remembered having one name: Luis. He wanted to make prosthetics for his fellow survivors, so he taught himself to read English and German and started on Latin. Without him her houseful of very young children probably would have starved, because they’d have tied her too closely to hearth and crib for her to work. Without what she’d earned and bartered, she could not have kept them fed and housed and clothed during the years her husband served in the war or, after that, a fledgling government far from Grantville. Without Luis, she knew, none of this could have been possible.

“Now tell me,” he said, “where you hurt.”

Alyse sucked back breath. “All over,” she answered in Spanish. “Call an ambulance? Please?”

Black-haired Luis Ybarra straightened, gathering the apprentices via gimlet gaze. “Bobby, go back to the office. Dial nine-one-one. Tell the operator we need an ambulance and police at the fairgrounds in the working pens. Run!”

Roberto “Bobby” Cardonez—the same small blond boy—didn’t wait to nod; he leapt from where he’d been crouched at Alyse’s knees and landed sprinting. “Yes, Luis!”

Alyse caught her boarder’s sleeve. “Listen, Luis—this isn’t that filly’s fault. I don’t know how, and I can’t prove anything, but I’m sure Rutger’s to blame.”

“Don’t let it worry you,” Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño nodded brusquely. “Luis, we’ll handle this. Just take care of our Alyse.” Rafael de Treviño had a muscular wiriness, like Luis, and a face full of fury. He had, also like Luis, a deep abiding affection for Alyse—not the love he felt for his wife or daughters, but respect, and a strong sense of kinship born of long hard hours’ work together. “We have all the time in the world to see justice finds this criminal—and we’ll see it. I swear on my oath as Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño.”

Luis shook his head, turning to the apprentices. He added in rapid-fire Amideutsch, “Don’t let Rutger fool you, boys. He’s not to be trusted.”

Rafael de Treviño switched to Amideutsch too. “Leave that horse alone, Augustus! Give her room to calm down. You and Odell . . .” He addressed the biggest two apprentices after Rutger. “. . . hold your classmate, there. He must not handle that horse or this saddle, and he must not leave. Understand?”

“I told you . . . ” Rutger began blusteringly.

“No,” Alyse interrupted clearly, “No me dices. No eres jefe aquí!

Luis growled, staring over Alyse’s head toward the damaged saddle. Meanwhile, Alyse’s partner led the circle closing in on Rutger. He backed away, step after step, until the rails of the pens stopped him. The circle tightened.

Alyse swallowed tears of relief, holding still as she could manage. A wail of sirens and a thunder of diesels arrived: Grantville’s Fire Department had sent an ambulance. A quarter-mile or so behind came the police.

****

 

Six weeks later

 

“You’re kidding,” Powell Glazer said. “First you disobey me, then expect me not just to pay your hospital bills but to give my blessing to a harebrained vigilante search? You can’t even prove the horses were stolen, let alone who took them!”

“I’m not. The only other person who saw what happened this morning is Luis,” Alyse answered. “I’m a partner in the school, in the business. The horses are as much mine as the hospital bills. My responsibility—you told me that yourself.”

“Call the police,” Powell snapped, “It’s their job.”

“I could,” she lifted her eyes. “But the law’s got more chores than it’s got hands to work on already.”

“You’ve nearly been killed for this foolish notion that a woman can do a man’s work,” Powell went on, face growing redder as his anger built. “This isn’t Texas. We’re not in 2000. Your responsibilities are right there in our house, with the children.”

“Doc Adams says I’m as good as I ever was,” Alyse nearly spat back. “Cracked my collarbone, and hit my head, and took a couple days before I got a good hold of everyday lingo back. Doesn’t change what needs doing or who’s handy for doing it, Powell.”

“You have small children—” His voice broke.

“The kids are used to Luis looking after them while I’m working,” she said, utterly unfazed. “If anything comes up Luis can’t handle, he can call Claudette . . . if you don’t want to be bothered.”

Pastor’s wife Claudette Green looked uneasy. Alyse knew husbands and wives usually asked Al Green to counsel them, but Alyse had developed a trust in Claudette during Powell’s long absences.

In a gentle voice, Claudette intervened from a spiritual angle. “The question’s not just about the horses. It’s not even about whose job it should be to find them and get them back. The question’s what example you’re setting. Ask yourself, Alyse: What would Jesus do?”

Alyse stood, straight-backed, shoulders set, eyes ablaze. “Back home,” she said in a very quiet voice, “I could give you chapter and verse. But here and now, there’s a better question.”

Claudette raised her eyebrows. “What question?”

“What would Adam Cartwright do?”

Powell said hotly, “A character in a television show? That show wasn’t even about Texas! You can’t seriously believe a character in a TV show is a better role model than Christ.”

“Who?” Claudette asked, visibly startled by Powell’s sudden reaction.

Alyse leaned on her bootheels. “My patience has limits.”

“You’re long past mine!” Powell snapped. “Your homesick-for-Texas nonsense has no place in this world. Texas isn’t what you remember. It never will be in this universe. You can’t go back there, no matter how much you wish you could. Wishing for what you can’t have is just childish, Alyse. You’re not a child any more. You’re supposed to respect my wishes.”

Alyse set her jaw, clenched her fists against her hips, and . . . said nothing, turning her back to him. Every line of her body shouted outrage.

Claudette tried to broker peace once more. “You’re right, Powell. She is supposed to respect your wishes. But you’re supposed to respect her work, too. She’s been everything Proverbs teaches us a godly wife should be. She had to keep herself and your children out of the poorhouse somehow. This home she’s made, these friends and partnerships she’s built, are worthwhile. They’re also not yours to brush off as though they don’t matter.”

“The Bible says . . .” he started, as if to impose his manly authority on both women.

“That a husband should cherish his wife as Christ cherishes the church,” Claudette answered firmly, paraphrasing a verse Alyse had reminded her of during one of their earlier conversations.

Disbelief warred with outrage across Powell Glazer’s ordinarily very handsome face. “That the husband is the head of the house, as Christ is the head of the church,” he answered icily, several seconds later. “The woman owes him obedience.”

Alyse shrugged. “Yes, provided he behaves as a proper husband ought to.”

His blue eyes turned cold as ice. “What are you accusing me of?”

“No one’s accusing you, Powell. But what does your conscience say?”

Glazer unfolded from the chair he’d straddled backwards and took a long step toward Alyse, raising his left hand as though to deliver a slap in response to her disrespect. What took over then Alyse would never know, but she spun inside his blow and blocked it on her forearm. Claudette caught Powell’s other hand, now clenched into a fist, in both of hers.

“This is not what you want to do, Powell,” she said. “This is not how a godly man treats his wife.”

He shook the pastor’s wife off roughly, blue eyes colder still as he glared at Alyse, still standing inside his reach. “This is not how a godly wife behaves.”

Claudette reached for the telephone. Alyse planted herself between the furious man and her best friend.

“Yes, this is Claudette Green. I need the police. We’re in the Mountaintop Institute office. There’s been an assault, and it looks like there might be another one any minute.” Glazer spun on his heel and strode out, slamming the door. Claudette went on, “Powell Glazer. He went tearing out of here like his hair’s on fire. No, not like Bryant Holloway. I called so it wouldn’t get that far,” Claudette told someone over the phone.

Alyse watched, one eyebrow raised, as Claudette set the instrument back in its cradle. The pastor’s wife sighed. “Well, that’s torn it, girl.”

Alyse quirked a half-smile, then nodded. “It about has.”

“So who is Adam Cartwright?” Claudette asked.

“Oh,” Alyse said. “Didn’t you ever watch Bonanza?”

“Didn’t that show come on Sunday nights?”

Alyse righted the chair Powell had left overturned. She sat down with a nod. “But I remember it from after school, out on the ranch with Mom’s family. That was where we lived after Dad’s plane disappeared, somewhere between Vandenberg and Eielson.”

Claudette reached out toward her. “I didn’t know . . .”

“I was in fifth grade,” Alyse said. “Got pulled out of class for the principal to tell me.”

“That must have been a shock.”

“Not as much as the ranch turned out to be.” Alyse’s eyes got a faraway look, remembering. “Tio Matteo took us to town one Saturday a month, on payday. We listened to church, the cattle markets, and sometimes music on his radio. We brought our TV with us, but the stations were all a long way off, and it took awhile before we got an antenna. Once we had it up, we’d do homework listening to Big Valley or Wagon Train.”

Claudette raised her eyebrows. “So why Adam Cartwright, particularly?”

“The closest station put Bonanza on, starting from the beginning,” Alyse said. “I’d always liked Nick Barkley and Flint McCullough. But that year I noticed . . . Adam Cartwright was the best-looking man in the whole wide world.”

Claudette nodded, saying nothing.

Alyse slanted a half-embarrassed look up from under her eyebrows at her friend. “All of the cowboys on TV could ride, and fight, and shoot; but Adam . . . read, a lot. He didn’t always have to fight somebody to solve problems. He could explain things and build things. He played guitar, and he could sing like an angel, and he could ride any horse ever foaled, and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.”

Claudette looked puzzled. “What on earth made you think that way? I mean, you weren’t a boy.”

“Girls always die at the end,” Alyse said.

Claudette shared a rueful grin with her, and then both of them looked a little sad before the pastor’s wife agreed, “I wouldn’t want to die at the end, either.”

Alyse sighed. “Always looked like guys had way more interesting things to do. So that’s what I wanted to learn. I guess havin’ my uncles think a little curly-haired girl looked cute on a man-size horse or lending a hand during the spring work spoiled me. By the time I’d outgrown lookin’ cute, I’d turned out to be a good enough barrel racer to try for a college scholarship.”

“So you lived on a working ranch, growing up.” The pastor’s wife looked thoughtful. “Who taught you to fight? I saw what you did, when Powell went to slap you. Somebody taught you that.”

“Sally McQuade was my best friend in grade school. Her dad taught us both, so the boys couldn’t beat us up on the playground. Taught us how to shoot, too, the year before we lost my Dad and had to move.” The Texan shook her head. “I’m not a competition-grade shooter like Marshal Archie Mitchell is or Sally and her dad were, but I learned on Smith and Wesson revolvers and Colt-made rifles. Your muscles remember.”

“Not mine!” Never having had to learn any such thing, Claudette rapped her knuckles on the table. “Come to think of it, that’s not all I don’t know—if you want Greta to take those weekly shipments of tamales to the farmer’s market, you’d better fix some and put in the freezer.”

“There’s six batches in the big freezer in the kitchen, and Greta knows to check with you if they run out.” Alyse rolled her shoulders and stood up as a police car pulled into the parking lot. “I put up a couple pints of pico de gallo while I was making sauce for the tamales. If you need more before I get back, Luis can show you the recipes. He makes pretty good biscuits. The hens are laying, too. All the sausage I’ve got left is venison, though.”

“We’ve got enough canned goods for a few weeks, if you’re gone that long. I’ll make sure the kids get by.”

“I appreciate this, Claudette,” the Texan said. “Honest.”

The pastor’s wife tilted her head, studying her friend. “So, what would Adam Cartwright do?”

“What’s right,” Alyse answered. “Same as I aim to. Maybe not what Jesus would. I’ll answer for that, too.” She glanced at the front door. A uniformed man’s knock vied with the ring of her bootheels as she headed out through the back. “I better get started.”

****

Nearly three weeks later, Claudette’s phone rang one late afternoon. “Just wanted to let you know I got home,” Alyse Glazer’s voice said when the pastor’s wife picked up. “I guess what’ll come next’ll be some sort of trial. Seein’ nobody died, and I got the horses he stole back, I guess they’ll try him in Judge Maurice Tito’s court.”

****

 

Mid-September, Magdeburg Courthouse

 

“And please tell the court, who are you?”

“Luis Ybarra,” he answered firmly.

“Luis Ybarra,” the questioner, a man named John Bradshaw, repeated. “Tell the court what you do and where you live, please.”

“A student at Grantville Technical and a boarder with Alyse Ballantine Glazer.” That, Luis thought, ought to cover it. Nobody needed to know who he had been, after all, before. “I work as a secretary to the Federal Express delivery company.”

“Ybarra?”

Alyse had offered him that name—her Tio Matteo’s—upon discovering he remembered but one of his own, early in his new life, while he recovered from the Wartburg, after being brought to Grantville as either a prisoner of war or a casualty; Luis hadn’t really sorted out the differences before he’d met her at the Refugee Center. She’d been introduced as someone who knew Spanish but wasn’t a soldier and not connected with the disastrous Wartburg overnight siege. For a boy rising fourteen, that night had been more than terrifying enough. What happened afterward . . . he didn’t want to fall down that rabbit-hole here and now, in a courtroom with people watching his face as he answered their questions.

“Ybarra.” He spelled it.

“Where are you from?”

“Pardon?”

“Ybarra is not a name in the Grantville records,” the questioner—a youngish fellow with a strangely lilting voice—said. “So where are you from, Sir? You must have traveled here from somewhere?”

Traveled here? In a wagon, with half-a-dozen others, survivors judged fit to spend days and nights hauled behind a . . . tractor? . . . from the still-smoking ruins of a massacre lit with Greek fire . . .  Oh, he’d traveled here, all right. Luis nodded.

“I was an escudero aprendizaje at Cadiz . . . It wasn’t home.” He looked up into the eyes of the man behind the palisaded desk above him. “The maestre de campo . . . set very high standards.”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen,” he replied firmly. “I think.” The man asking questions looked at him, momentarily—was that expression pitying? Luis straightened just a bit in the wooden chair. “I’ve lived here four years. I graduated high school last May.”

“You are a war veteran?” The questioner asked that in a different tone.  “Were you a soldier?”

“Apprentice to a sergeant in a tercio. We were in a battle, and after the battle we retreated to a fortress on top of a cliff. We . . . were burned out of that place.  I tried to pull the man whose apprentice I was away from that fire . . . They told me he died . . .” The room held silent; a tear ran down Luis’ cheek, beneath his suddenly-glittering brown eye. “I spent some time in the hospital and a few days at the Refugee Center. Miz Glazer hired me from there.”

The man behind the palisaded desk thumped a wooden mallet on a wooden pad. “Fifteen minutes recess,” he said calmly. “Señor Ybarra, when we come back, there will be a few more questions for you. But those questions will be about the day Miz Glazer was injured. Do you think you will be able to answer those questions all right?”

“Yes.”

****

“Lord, Judge, I had no idea . . .”

“You couldn’t’ve, John,” Judge Maurice Tito affirmed solemnly. “It’s so different here—we drafted kids when I’m from, but they were at least eighteen. Here . . . what, a twelve-year-old? Or younger, maybe? And what in the name of righteousness is an apprentice escudero?”

A shrug and headshake. “He’s clearly got some serious post-traumatic stress there, and I purely did not mean to bring that up in court.”

“What’s done can’t be undone. Keep to the day Alyse Glazer got hurt, when we go back in. Do you have her deposition, by the way?”

“I do. It’s recorded in her own voice, too, though we didn’t have a camcorder, just a tape recorder, when we talked to her.”

“That’ll do, but I’ll want a transcript for the record,” Judge Tito said quietly.

“Well, I can introduce that. We made one with the tape, you know.”

“Standard practice. Okay. We’ve got seven minutes left. I’ll see you back in court.” He sighed, looking across the desk in his private office. “I wish that fool had let us get him a defense attorney.”

“Laura Koudsi was the next name on the roster, and he refused to have a woman speak for him,” the attorney answered mildly. “I understand he’s been a fairly hostile prisoner.”

“From what I heard,” His Honor responded, heading for the private restroom adjoining his judicial sanctuary, “that’s an understatement.”

****

“I was watching the children and catching up on paperwork. Bobby came in saying . . . Miz Glazer . . . had asked for me, because there’d been an accident.” Luis sat nearly as still in the witness chair as if he’d been carved out of granite. “Bobby said she was hurt.”

“Who is Bobby?”

Luis raised his left hand, indicating a small figure in the audience. “Roberto Cardonez. He is apprenticed with us.”

Bobby Cardonez stood up, nodded at Luis, and sat back down. Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño patted the boy’s shoulder from the seat beside him.

“What did he tell you, that day?”

“To come quickly, Miz Glazer needed me.”

“And you went where?”

“With him.” Luis’ voice held sadness. “I never thought to use the phone and call more help. When we got to the working pens, A—Miz Glazer had to ask for that herself.”

“She was able to speak?”

“Absolutely.”

“She sounded to you as though she were in her right mind?”

“Oh, yes. Hurt, and she spoke Spanish only, but nothing had disrupted her thinking. She—and Señor Treviño—were talking pretty clearly. Someone had damaged the cinch on her saddle.”

“What was the significance of the damaged saddle?”

Luis sent a look at Gerhard Rutger that should have melted the defendant in his seat. “Señor Treviño showed us how the cinch had been cut partway through. Alyse’s saddle is very distinctive. She uses it every day when she rides the demonstrations.”

“That’s all the questions I have for this witness.”

“Herr Rutger, have you any cross examination?”

The big blond with the ragged beard stood and spat on the floor. “No. He lies.”

Luis’ hand clenched into a fist. “I do not lie. That apprentice does not respect Miz Glazer. He fights the other students and handles horses too roughly. He is . . . a bully.”

“Your Honor,” Bradshaw said.

“Señor Ybarra,” the man behind the tall desk spoke quietly. “Thank you for your testimony. You’re free to leave the witness box.”

Luis looked up at him. “I have more to say about Rutger. We know . . .”

Rutger leapt to his feet, advancing on the witness box. “Lies! Because I do not spoil stupid animals or give in to the whims of whining children! I do not listen to a silly woman pretending she knows about men’s work! Because I am a man and I act like a man, you resent me!”

“Order in the court! Bailiff—!”

But before the bailiff could intervene Rutger had smashed a fist at Ybarra, hard enough to rock the young man back in the witness chair. Luis moved like a cat, drawing himself onto the chair seat in a crouch before kicking both feet out over the witness box rail. The heels of his Texas-style boots met Rutger’s forehead with a crack like a bat sending a ball four hundred feet over the center field fence into the stands. Instead of throwing the second punch he’d had drawn back, Rutger fell away from the kick, landing on the floor with a thud.

Luis alit outside the box, light as a cat leaping down. He looked at the much larger young man on the floor and spoke so softly the judge, the nearest person, had to strain to hear. His words were neither Italian, Spanish, French, nor Latin, as far as the judge could tell.

“I think his neck is broken, Judge,” Bradshaw said, kneeling beside Rutger on the floor. As Luis braced himself against the witness-box railing, Bradshaw went on, “It’s clearly self-defense, too. The defendant was about to hit the witness again.”

“I think you’re right.” The judge looked at the rigid-backed refugee braced at the railing. “Señor Ybarra,” he said. “We all saw what happened. This is purely self-defense. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the court thanks you for your service. You are dismissed.”

Luis looked up. “Thank you, Your Honor.”

Pedro Sebastian Rafael de Treviño stood. “May I have a moment of the court’s attention?”

“A moment,” the judge allowed. “You have something more for this case?”

“No,” Rafael de Treviño answered. “I think it a separate matter, but Rutger often bragged he would show everyone how stupid and weak Americans are. We found the knife he used to cut the cinch, causing the fall that put Alyse in the hospital.”

“Then,” Luis said, “he ran away, stealing some of the school’s horses.”

“That’s the more you wanted to tell the jury?”

Luis nodded. Stepping up beside him with another nod, Rafael de Treviño put an arm around the younger man’s shoulders, then looked up at the judge.

“If not for Alyse . . . our business could not go on. But we cannot pay her hospital bills. Our company is new and small. The bills are ruinous.” He drew a deep breath. “This was no accident, and while Gerhard Rutger may be beyond reach now, the source of his funds is not. I know who sent him to us and paid his expenses.”

“I understand,” the lawyer called Bradshaw stated. “This court will have a suit to dissolve the Glazer marriage on the docket in a few days, as well.”

Rafael de Treviño gave a purely Spanish shrug. “That also is part of why we seek damages against Rutger’s estate. I don’t see my partner, Alyse Ballantine, able to afford the hospital bills. Once the marriage is dissolved, Mister Glazer certainly will not assist with such debts.”

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement, but I am inclined to agree with you.” The judge glanced at the two men standing, now, with their elbows on the edge of his desk’s palisade. “Costs of the injuries should be borne by the party acting to cause them. Absent direct relief, by that party’s estate.”

“Can you get copies of the information to the court, Señor Treviño?” asked the lawyer. “I’ll be happy to represent your company if you want. I think it’ll be open-and-shut liability for injuries caused.”

“Lord save us lawsuit complications, yes,” muttered the judge, then hammered the gavel onto its target. “We are adjourned.”

****

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One thought on “WWJD Is The Wrong Question

  1. Sunwyn Ravenwood

    Curiously, the same day I read this I also read an internet meme which pointed out that the options available under “WWJD” include turning over tables and chasing people with awhip.

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