The Return of PeeWee Secaucus

A lawyer discovers the gift of magic

“I don’t have time for a case like this.” I was running down the hall. Papers were trying to escape my closed, tan briefcase.

Micah followed me into the courtroom. Sometimes, interns are like dogs. The little yapper kinds, not the cool big ones. “Go away,” I said to her as I popped open my briefcase, trying to bring order to my paper mess as my one good eye glanced at her thin olive face. Micah looks like a young movie star.

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The long eyelashes of her green eyes flitted up and down. “He’s been incarcerated for two years,” she badgered.

I stopped rifling through my papers to look at her. “I don’t care.”

I was in court for the first case I hadn’t pled out in two years. I didn’t need the distraction of some crazy homeless guy who would cost me more money than I could ever make from him.

“Franklin, your term of service with the superior court is about up. If you don’t take on a CA case soon they’re going to hold you in contempt or something.”

“So a fine for not servicing the needs of the smelliest and most destitute of Savannah. How will I sleep tonight, Micah?” I rested my hand under my stubbly chin and flitted my one good eye right back at her.

She was right about my term of service, though. My agreement with the circuit court required that I take on another role as a court-appointed attorney for some hopeless fool soon. Like, today soon.

Micah was just looking at me, trying to weld one of her favorite gazes into my psyche. She had a large catalog of these, which she wielded like weapons. This one was designed to impart a feeling of guilt into my soul, but I was determined to outlast her arsenal.

“His name is PeeWee Secaucus,” she said, beginning another assault. “Can you really resist a name like that?”

I wasn’t sure I could. “Yes,” I replied. “Anyway, that can’t be his real name.”

“Well, umm, they’re not sure what his real name is. He’s been on a 130 for the last six months. He keeps giving out different names.”

“Oh for God’s sake, Micah. He’s not in jail, then. He’s in a psych ward. What is he charged with?”

“No, he’s in the new detention center. It has a psych ward but it’s a cell block. It’s jail, Franklin. He gets bologna sandwiches and is locked down 23 hours a day like the rest of them.” The onset of the newest pandemic had given the local jailers an excuse to lock down county detainees as a matter of policy. Detention facilities loved pandemics.

I knew that the psych ward for detainees was just like jail, but sometimes I played dumb. I looked at my watch as I began to pretend to look for paperwork, but my search was a blind one. I didn’t even know what I was pretending to look for. Micah was good at her job. And I knew she was still staring at me.

“Six months he’s been here in Chatham County, and before that other places,” she said. “He won’t take his medicine, and they can’t make him because he hasn’t been charged with a violent crime. Not this time. Yet. But the DA wants to charge him with aggravated assault because they think he is someone else.”

“And who might that be?”

“A guy named Wilson Anderson.”

“Why would they think that? And if he’s not there on an assault charge what’s he in for?”

“Because he is on record as saying his name is General Marshal Wilson Anderson Cooper, highest ranking military officer of the Interplanetary Order of the Fraternal something or other. He is being detained for sleeping in the park.”

“Good God, what’s wrong with these people? Well, no wonder they want him on his meds if he thinks he’s leading an interplanetary expedition force. And I guess that there is a bench warrant out for a Wilson Anderson?”

“Yeah, listed at the same address PeeWee gave.”

“I thought you said PeeWee is homeless.”

“He is, but he gave Wilson Anderson’s address as a place of residence. It’s a boarded-up house now. But it belonged to a Wilson Anderson up until a couple of years ago.”

“What about the Anderson Cooper part? Oh, never mind. He doesn’t have a driver’s license or some ID?”

Micah shook her head.

“So he pokes around in mailboxes, too. That’s a federal crime I think. Maybe the feds can take him off our hands.”

“This is serious, Franklin. Before this, he was locked up for walking around in his underwear at the public library. He was on a 130 for that, too. For eight months. Never went to trial. They finally cut him loose.”

“Well, unless he’s Ryan Gosling, eight months sounds about right for a guy walking around in his underwear in a public library.”

She continued to stare. She found a different look from her own library. I think this one was a look related to a solemn plea that bordered on begging. Meanwhile, the court officers were beginning to scramble in a way that suggested that court would soon be in session. I had a real case to get ready for.

My phone buzzed, revealing a news alert: “Deadly pathogen blamed for Rikers Island fatalities. 3500 feared dead.”

“Fine,” I said, succumbing to her charms more quickly than usual, mostly so I could get back to my case. “But you’re tagging along the entire time for this one, Vampirella. Good one to cut your teeth on. And you’re doing all the work on it.”

She smiled. She had a pretty smile, but her incisors were the size of machetes. “I already have done all the work. I just need you to sign stuff.”

Micah was what in my youth would have been called Goth. She didn’t maintain the look because it was a bad look for a courthouse, but I had no doubt she was Goth. Or had been.

I didn’t know what they called themselves these days. I could almost see her ink black hair covering her eyes when she talked, even though it didn’t. These days it was cut in a bob, but she still had the front of her hair cut to an angle over her forehead. She wore just a little more black eye shadow than she really should have according to the legal world’s tribal fashion laws.

Sometimes, when I saw her hair in a certain light, I thought I noticed a streak of blue in the back. She had a petit body that at other times I wanted to bounce off my lap, but that moment never presented itself.

She and her incisors joined me the next day in the same courthouse. “Have you been to the dungeon before?” I asked as we passed through security. She shook her head excitedly. This was her first real foray into courtroom drama. She was going to end up mightily disappointed.

“Well, you’re in for a treat. It’s where they keep the detainees while they’re waiting for the judge to see them. It’s basically a big holding cell in the basement here under the courthouse. There may be twenty of these guys sitting in a concrete room with nothing but one concrete bench. These poor schleps will wait for five, six, eight hours sometimes. Animal shelters have better accommodations. The food in the animal shelter is better though.”

PeeWee Secaucus was, according to court records, Wilson Anderson. I was curious to know why PeeWee had the d.b.a. that he had. Was he from Jersey, like me? We walked over to the defense table and sat down. When Wilson Anderson’s name was called, we approached the bench.

To my left was a notorious assistant district attorney named Felice Herrera Sepúlveda, who could talk a jury into convicting a six-year-old girl wearing a flower-patterned dress, and probably had.

In front of us, as wide as his desk, was the honorable Otis Billings. The judge had several layers of neck supporting his dark brown, bald head. He sported a greying goatee that made him look more intimidating than he was. He was a jovial sort, one that even the capricious Ms. Sepúlveda would have a hard time turning against my client.

“Congratulations,” said Judge Billings to the ADA after the court officer read off the charge. “You had one more day to get your grand jury indictment than you needed.”

The humorless Sepúlveda read off the charges listed on the indictment, which consisted of aggravated assault and aggravated larceny.

It turned out that the prosecution was claiming that PeeWee had stolen a bicycle from a middle schooler and that when the middle schooler confronted him, he cold-cocked the poor kid. But the kid wasn’t able to identify the assailant because the perp was wearing a ski mask and black gloves. The ADA went on to explain that they found the bicycle on PeeWee’s person the next day.

Micah had told me all this in a hurry-up meeting on our walk to the courthouse. PeeWee had told the authorities that the bicycle had been a gift from the Legion of Rigel, which I assumed was related somehow to the Interplanetary Order of the Fraternal something or other that Micah had referenced earlier.

I asked the judge for a speedy trial, even though I was determined for PeeWee to plea out, and even though I hadn’t yet met the man.

“We’ll set the discovery hearing for two weeks from today — is that acceptable, counselor?” he asked me.

“It is, your honor, thank you.”

From there, it was off to the dungeon. We met the corrections officer standing outside the dungeon door, which was a thick steel block with one small window that had a shade over it.

“In there.” The corrections officer nodded to a door on the opposite side of the dungeon. We walked over to it, and a loud buzz ricocheted through the basement as the door opened. We walked in, and the door closed and clanked shut.

The room consisted of four walls made of faded yellow masonry brick scratched with colorful expressions of frustration such as “I want to die” and “Kill me”. It had clearly not always been a lawyer’s den. On second thought, maybe it had.

One of the walls was split horizontally by a large pane of plexiglass and a phone. Micah and I approached. I peered through the glass but it was too dark to see anything until a door opened, revealing light from outside. A light flicked on in the room on the other side of the plexiglass.

He really was a pee wee. A small man, not more than four and a half feet tall, skittishly walked into the room. The door behind him clanged shut. I motioned for him to pick up the phone on his side of the plexiglass. He stared at me instead.

PeeWee had a full head of dirty blonde hair that I guessed hadn’t been cut since his incarceration. He looked to be about fifty. His nose was wide and thick and red, but more rotting apple red than ripe apple red. His face was pockmarked and grey like he had been floating dead in the water for a month. He was somehow a bit overweight and gaunt at the same time. A closer look revealed that it was his hollowed-out cheeks that gave him that look. It was the look of someone who’d been eating nothing but bologna sandwiches for six months.

The small man approached and pointed at me. I looked at Micah, who shrugged.

“Pick up the damn phone,” I yelled, my patience already at its end.

PeeWee folded his arms and shook his head.

Micah approached him. “Please, PeeWee,” she said in a loud, succulent voice right out of a porn movie. PeeWee neared the phone.

She had obviously met PeeWee, which was very much against protocol. Being a lawyer myself, I should have known if such an act was illegal, but I wasn’t sure. She was just an intern. At this point, I didn’t care, because he was reaching for the phone.

He picked it up and pointed at me again. I picked up the phone on our end.

“Are you Captain Jack?” he asked.

“No,” was all I said.

“But the eye patch,” he replied.

“Captain Jack doesn’t have a goddamn eye patch.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“Good, let’s continue.”

“It’s okay that you don’t know who you are. The resistance has wiped your memory for your own protection. But you are Captain Jack. Of the Federated Interplanetary Order of Betelguese. You are a legend. Of the wrong kind.”

I looked at Micah. “You usually have a better memory,” I admonished.

“What did he say?”

“He said I’m with the Federated Interplanetary Order of Betelguese. Which I’m guessing is the same as what you thought was the Interplanetary Order of the Fraternal of the something or other, which was what you said originally.”

PeeWee interrupted me with, “Interplanetary Order of the Fraternal Resistance of Rigel.”

I knew a little astronomy. Rigel and Betelguese were two big-time stars in our galaxy. To astronomers, they were celebrities. I decided to play along to see if it might help PeeWee return to earth long enough for me to get out of this hellhole. “Are Rigel and Betelguese at war?”

PeeWee laughed like I had tickled his most sensitive spot. “That’s a joke right? For thousands of years, they’ve been at it. Wow, they really did a number on you, Captain Jack.”

I wasn’t supposed to do this kind of thing, but at this point, if I got disbarred I thought it would probably be a good thing, so I handed the phone to Micah. “Here. You do this,” I said, rolling my eyes.

But PeeWee turned around and banged on the door, and that was that.

We returned to our desk in the courtroom, which was getting more crowded with other lawyers who had their own clients. We had had our turn.

At that moment, one of the attorneys next to us pointed to a vent in the ceiling. A distinct fog was rolling out of it. “What is that?” she asked.

Judge Billings looked up and displayed uncanny agility for a man his size as he ran out of the courtroom into the judge’s chambers. I looked at Micah, who was reading her phone. “Good God,” she said. “They’re saying the Rikers thing caused myocarditis — I guess that’s inflammation of the heart? Like, in everyone all at once.”

I pulled on her black suit sleeve and looked up at the fog coming out of the vent. I used my dad’s vocabulary to express my alarm. He had been a special forces guy whose gift for expletives matched the creativity of the world’s greatest writers.

By now, everyone in the courtroom was scrambling to get out, but they weren’t getting far before collapsing to the ground. When I reached back for Micah’s hand, she took mine, as we stepped over shaking and shuddering bodies.

There was no time for screaming or alarm, people were going down so rapidly. It was almost like a mass shooting, except in this case there was no blood. The court reporter was hunched over her desk, not moving at all, her long brown hair flipped completely over her face. A thick bailiff was stretched on his back, arched over another officer who was sprawled out on his stomach clutching a gun.

Very quickly, it was obvious that Micah and I were the only ones still alive. We walked out into the hallway, which was filled with bodies. “Come on,” I said. I knocked on Judge Billings’ chambers door. There was no answer, but the door was unlocked. The judge was slouched over his desk holding a phone, which blared its disapproval over the missing phone numbers it had expected.

I could feel Micah’s hand shaking. I suddenly found myself guilty for my earlier carnal longings for her. I wanted to comfort her somehow, but I wasn’t even close to guessing how that would work. We were both nearing a state of shock.

We left the judge’s chambers and scrambled down the fire escape stairs to the main lobby of the courthouse, which was now a nest of dead, silent bodies, most of them in suits or police uniforms.

On the farthest wall from us, sitting on a grey marble backless bench, sat a small man eating a candy bar. We both ran to him. It was PeeWee.

PeeWee shook his head. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he said.

I couldn't even react to that, much less reply.

“I don’t know if I did this, or what.” He looked up at us. Then he mumbled as he took another bite of his candy bar. “Not supposed to mess with the timeline. Cross the metaverse. Or whatever it is.”

He shook his head. Then he shrugged. “I was only trying to help. Maybe it was your fault.” He was looking at Micah when he said that. “Were you holding his hand in the courtroom?” He then looked at me. “Franklin? Was she?”

I nodded. Everything was a blur. “I think so.”

“The pathogen. It’s very directed. Very targeted. It was supposed to just get the criminals. Not the whole goddamned Chatham County judicial system. You’re not supposed to be together here. That messed things up.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I demanded.

“I have this ability. Hard to explain. See, I can transfer a nearly exact duplicate of a person from a parallel universe that is only infinitesimally different than our own. So I did that with Micah here and, well, I guess you came along. Because you were holding her hand, I suppose. And I wonder.” He shook his head again.

“Anyway, in her other universe, the event occurs a half hour later. Enough time to get away. And so she’s here now before it happens. In a way. Make sense?”

“No!!” I yelled.

“All magic is science, at the end of the day,” he muttered, finishing his candy bar and crunching its plastic wrapper. “But I can’t much explain it.”

Micah knelt down beside him and took his hand. “But why are you here?”

“Simple. I found a universe where I know who I am. Where none of this,” and with that, he pointed to his head, “happens. I’m just, you know, me.”

“And who is that?” I asked, unable to imagine any other response within the scope of the unimaginable scenario I had found myself. None of this felt real, so it felt like I was talking to a character from a movie.

“My name is Draymond Secaucus. My friends call me PeeWee.”

“But where is the other PeeWee?” asked Micah. “The one we saw a few minutes ago?”

“Oh. Huh. I dunno. Good question. Perhaps he’s where you left him. I don’t really know how this all works. It’s all so… new.”

I looked around at all the bodies. “How all what works?” I noticed my phone buzzing in my pocket.

“You should look at that,” said PeeWee.

“My purse,” said Micah. “I left it in the courtroom.”

“You won’t be needing it before much longer,” said PeeWee. “You both act so surprised. But it’s been going on for some time. This is the final stage.”

He was still obviously a madman, no matter what was going on.

“Look at your phone,” he said as if it was an order.

Reluctantly, I pulled it out. What else was there to do at this point? I looked at the screen on my phone. It read in all caps, “Massive biochemical attack across the U.S.”

“Who the hell are you?” I asked.

“My name is PeeWee Secaucus. And I just saved your ass. Now, go. Try to do some good with what’s left of the world.”

Micah stood up and brushed herself off as if she had been in a fight. “We can’t without you. I’m positive about this.” She had lost her mind, too. But who could blame her?

Sirens were blaring outside and first responders were pouring into the hallways. PeeWee nodded and extended both of his hands. Micah took one. She looked at me. “Oh for God’s sake,” I said, and I took the other.

And with that, we were gone.

I’m not sure where we are now. We’re on the shore of a lake. No, it’s a bay, I think. Two women are emerging from a nearby treeline. They’re wearing long satin blue robes. When they reach us, one of the women extends her hand downward. PeeWee lets go of our hands and then takes hers.

“Welcome to Moria,” says the woman.

PeeWee looks at me, then Micah. “The unreachable coast,” he says. “The land of magic.”

This story is part of The MagicLand Chronicles: Short stories related to my debut novel, MagicLand, but with different characters and plots. MagicLand is set 2,000 years after this short story.