Caesar's Coin

by John Davis Collins - © 1997 by John F. Clennan. -
Revised 1999 - © 1999 by John F Clennan All Rights Reserved

The afterglow of the autumn Texas Sun sent its last burst of energy at 1900 hours, (7 p.m.) against the windows of the white, one story bungalow which accommodated Fort Gate's courtroom at one end and its Trial Defense Service at the other. A lonely car swished down Battalion Avenue kicking up dust into its wake.

The Defense Officer, A Captain in his late 20's stepped out of the courtroom onto the porch connecting it to the defense office. His client, a lieutenant, followed after him. Her serious look on her round face had melted into exhaustion.

" I hope I have enough stockings to last through the rest of the trial," the Lieutenant complained.

The Captain turned to her and frowned. They had agreed that she wear the skirt, rather than the pants dress uniform. "Caesar's coin has to stretch -- the dress green skirt brings out the shape of ...." He looked at her. The uniform gave her a well-proportioned appearance.

"My hips." She laughed.

"To beat these charges, we need sex appeal." He said uneasily.

They looked to the end of the porch near the defense office. A tall man stood there with his hands on his hips. As car wheels spin on the gravel on the far side of the building announcing the departure of the court, the figure melted into the inky twilight.

"Wheels of Justice," smirked the Captain.

The Lieutenant laughed. It was the second or third day of the ordeal that began each morning at 0800 promptly in the courtroom.

They walked quickly to the door marked Army Trial Defense Office - Fort Gates. The door was locked and bolted.

"When trials run over, the other defenders hang out to help," the Captain snapped. "When you accept Caesar's coin, you must be faithful to his service."

"Not today," the Lieutenant replied.

Everyone was running from this explosive case. Even the Captain's wife had her doubts about the defense.

They were all sanctimonious. Every now and then, the Army picked someone out to be an example. After a ritual trial, the accused would be ignominiously dismissed from the service. Jail was never seriously considered, unless the course of proceedings revealed a real crime or the accused could be baited into one.

The door was thrown open and the lights turned on. On the wall Ronald Reagan's picture now stood alone above portraits of George Washington and Horatio Gates. Even though Reagan's predecessor still had some weeks left in office, the Army slyly indicated its preference.

Inside the office, the Lieutenant started coffee, while the captain went to his private office and started to spread the file across her desk.

"Our theme has to remain," the Captain called out, "the policy says a homosexual cannot be a good soldier. Logically a good soldier, then, is not a homosexual..."

Entering the office with coffee cups, she replied with tired eyes, "It made more sense a couple days ago..."

"We strayed," the Captain looked over his papers, "Your accuser is nuts and gave us too much opportunity for mischief..."

A blond haired man stood in the doorway. The Lieutenant and Captain turned toward him. Although indoors, the stranger wore sunglasses. His uniform was crisp; his hair was neatly combed.

"Captain, I need a specialist."

"If you need a specialist, why are you talking to a captain ?" The Captain leaned back in his chair. In the Army, the rank of specialist was roughly equivalent to corporal or buck sergeant.

The Sergeant bore a stupid grin.

"Oh," the Captain said, "the other type of specialist. You find them in the hospital. Only jackasses inhabit law offices after hours."

The Lieutenant excused herself to get another cup of coffee.

The Sergeant, looked at the Lieutenant as she left the room.

"Captain, I'm accused of being a homosexual."

Mechanically, the Captain tossed across the desk at the Sergeant a 4 x 6 index card and said, "Fill out the Legal Assistance Card. Take two aspirins and the Clerk will let you see someone in the morning. Maybe by then you'll be cured."

"You don't understand," the Sergeant protested, "My CO begs me to desert and then orders the treatment. I can't take it no more. Someone saw me in town with my...friend..."

The Captain looked up wearily. "Fill out the card. I'm going outside for fresh air."

"Will you see me ?" "After my coffee and fresh air, I'll decide."

As the Captain passed through the waiting area, the Lieutenant warned, "A fake ?..." The Captain looked around the waiting area. Magazines were strewn about. The Law Clerk's desk was covered with paper. The faithful had been fickle tonight. They unusually straighten up before they leave.

Outside on the porch, he looked at puffy blue clouds dance across the horizon with a glimmer, red at their lower edge reflected off the sun beneath the horizon.

There certainly had been a few fakes before. Most targeted the Lieutenant in search for a real crime.

Was this man a fake ? The Captain didn't know.

I could send him away, the Captain argued with himself. The office is closed. See the Clerk in the morning. He'd be someone else's headache. If he's genuine, I'm sending away a person in acute distress. If he's a fake and I turn him away, they'll send me a better fake. And what should I tell him ? To counsel desertion is a crime.

He reached into his pocket for a stick of gum, but only found a crushed empty wrapper and a bright coin that glimmered in the after glow of the brilliant Texas twilight. What was the line in the Bible? The Captain asked himself. "Render therefore into Caesar that which is Caesar's."

When the Captain returned to the office, the Lieutenant clutched his arm and started to talk, the Captain smiled, "Careful Lieutenant you may be giving yourself an unintended defense."

Authoritatively the Captain sat behind his desk and looked at the Legal Assistance Card. "Question, what should you do when CO begs you to desert. Answer, you can't desert. That's a crime."

"I can't take pressure. Desert, stay away 90 days, get dropped from the rolls..."

"No Sergeant. That's unworthy of you who wears his uniform so well. You tell your CO: "Sir I'm a homosexual and a good soldier, proud of both... and smile at him... Either he'll get rid of you in a proper manner or, " the Captain paused, "or leave you alone."

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