Thomas sat back in his office chair. As a criminal defense attorney in Sin City, he had no shortage of clients. Unlike many other criminal defense attorneys who wanted money and did not care whom they represented, Thomas always sought innocent people to represent. First time offenders or people who were truly not guilty of the crime charged kept his client base small and exclusive. Yet he was busy because he found that it was often harder work to represent the innocent than the guilty.
Thomas decided long ago that he did not want to represent sociopaths. Even though sociopaths could be repeat business, they have a tendency to lie to get their way and resort to violence when they do not get their way, or just for the hell of it. Thomas did not need to worry about this element when innocent people required justice. Besides, good people paid their legal fees with honest money.
After his ten-year high school reunion, Thomas thought about those who did not attend. One in particular, John, was a bully that followed Tom through twelve years of public schooling, and every several years they had a run in. John was a stocky kid who was probably beaten at home by abusive parents and did not care about pain. He also hung with a rough crowd and seemed to enjoy violence for the sake of violence, and not for another reason. Thomas thought about some of the fights he and his brothers had against John and his gang.
In fifth grade, Tommy and his twin third grade brothers rode their bicycles home from elementary school together. John and a gang of five fifth graders saw them and started to chase, calling them every imaginative name they could muster with their limited four-letter vocabularies. Tommy’s dad, Noland, happened to drive down the street toward them in his truck and stopped.
“What’s going on?” he yelled across the street.
Tommy crossed as the five fifth graders pulled up behind his brothers, “They are chasing us. They want to beat us up.”
“Go tell them you’ll fight them, then,” Noland said. Noland always believed that standing up to bullies would make them leave you alone. But, he did not know John. To Noland, John just looked like another little fifth grader. He did not see the monster in the child.
Tommy walked back over to his brothers and faced the gang, which outnumbered and out-sized them, “I’ll take you all on!” he shouted angrily.
Over the next several minutes, the three brothers and the five fifth graders tussled. Fifth graders would pick up the younger boys and throw them down. Finally, a school crossing guard and some parents from down the street pulled up and threatened to call the police and the school, which effectively ended the melee.
Tommy and his brothers rode toward home and John and his gang followed. Noland stopped John and Tommy on the side of the street to figure out what happened while the other boys rode on.
“They called my mother a f*cking whore,” John lied without blinking.
“What!” Noland’s face contorted with fury. He set his beer can on his seat, reached out, and slapped Tommy across the face. “Get home! I’ll deal with you when I get there!”
Tommy rode home in tears. His own father did not let him speak to defend himself. Noland had just undermined the whole effort in fighting the bullies. John now knew that he could harass Tommy and Tommy would not even have the support of his own father. When Noland arrived home, his three sons endured hours of Marine corps punishment, including “dirty doubles” and other physical exercises, picking up cigarette butts along the street, and instructions on how to fight well into the evening. Tommy remembers the stench of alcohol, as this was a few years before his father gave up his addiction.
Over the next several years, Tommy avoided John in every way he could, but sometimes it was unavoidable. When Tommy had to take a bus to school in sixth and seventh grade, John knew where to find Tommy. One day in eighth grade, Tommy had just exited the bus on his way home and John, with his teenage friends in their car, chased him. Tommy ran through private yards and jumped fences. When he thought he was in the clear, he continued on foot down the road toward home, only to have John pull up near him.
John got out of the car and ran over to Tommy, who stood burdened with a violin and a book bag. Tommy was out of breath from the running and jumping he had just done. Adrenalin coursed through his veins, telling him to flee and hide instead of stand and fight.
To Tommy’s later shame, he stood there as John pushed him up against a wall, “Please, leave me alone,” Tommy struggled saying, “I have asthma, and you could kill me.” Tommy did not have asthma, but he did not want to fight this kid who had teen-aged friends and who already had Tommy’s father on his side. The adrenalin seemed to flood into his stomach, his arms felt heavy.
“You’re a weak, girly piece of sh*t,” John slapped Tommy across the face. Tommy just stood there, holding his violin. “You’re not worth it,” John punched Tommy in the stomach and then sauntered back to the car.
Tommy never told another person of this humiliating experience.
A few years later, Tom and his brothers were walking up a neighborhood street toward Frenchman Mountain with a friend. They planned to hike to the top and look down on Las Vegas. On the way, John and a couple of other kids spotted them and John decided to have some fun. He told a kid who was riding a kick scooter to run into Tom’s brother’s ankles.
“Go ahead, they won’t do anything,” Tom could hear John tell the other kid.
Tom was now fifteen and fed up. He, his brothers, and his friend outnumbered the three bullies. As the scooter was about to hit his brother’s ankle, Tom swung around and punched the kid in the face. Over the next fifteen minutes, the boys fought. Tom would punch and block in the normal boxing style. The other kid obviously did not know how to fight, and dove at Tom several times like a football tackle. On one of the tackles, Tom grabbed the kid’s shoulders and threw him to the ground with jujitsu, then sat on his stomach while pinning his arms.
“Give up!” Tom demanded.
“No way!” the kids retorted.
Tom then punched the kid in the face again so that his head bounced off the cement of the driveway they fell onto. “Give up!”
Tom bounced the kid’s head off the cement a few more times. “I could kill you, you know.” Tom stated coolly.
“I don’t care,” the kid said. Apparently, the kid wanted to save face in front of John--the instigator, the ringleader.
Tom hit him a few more times, “Concussions can be serious--give up!”
“Ok, let’s call it even. Neither has to give up, let’s just walk away.”
“I’ll get you off of me and then you’re done!” was the weak response.
Tom slammed the kid in the head a couple more times. The old man who lived in the home whose property they were on came out and threatened to call the police if they didn’t get off his property.
“Call the police!” Tom yelled, but the old man mumbled, "snotty brat" and ignored Tom.
“I’m letting you up, now. We can walk away from this with all of our teeth. I haven’t knocked any of yours out yet, but if I get you down like this again, you’ll need to see a dentist.”
Once up, the stubborn boy wanted to keep fighting. “You’re bleeding,” Tom pointed out, “and you probably don’t have a headache yet, but you will. I can block what you throw all day long. You’ve barely touched me. Let’s just call it a truce.”
The kid reluctantly decided to take the advice.
The crowd of neighborhood kids that had come to audience the fight disbanded as Tom and Co. continued their hike. John and his beaten bully went the other way.
That had been the last incident that Thomas can remember involving John. Thomas gazed at his computer monitor and decided to type John’s name into the criminal database to learn whether John ever had been incarcerated. Sure enough, John had a long rap sheet and was currently in prison for twelve years. John had assaulted several people with a weapon and also committed armed robbery.
“John was a sociopath as a kid, and he is to this day,” Thomas thought, “Nope, not the kind of client I would represent. The amygdala is just a little too small to be helped. The public defenders can have that joy.”