DCM Knights
Detective Comics

The Phantom Voice: Part II
by Chip Caroon

Victor Cranston
Natalie Casswell

When Victor and Natalie walked into the courtroom, they saw that Lamont was sitting on the back row. Victor and Natalie also sat down in that row, with both to Lamont's right. Victor put his arm around Natalie's shoulders.

The judge banged his gavel repeatedly. "Order!" he demanded. "Order in the court! One more such outburst from the crowd of spectators at this trail and I shall order the courtroom cleared." He looked at the defense attorney. "The defense shall proceed."

The defense attorney was an older man. He was somewhat short. He was bald, except for some white hair running along the back of his head.

"Your honor," the attorney addressed, "I have stated the case for my client. I have shown that by his record, it would have been impossible for him to act as the prosecution has claimed he has acted. And I have yet to see any proof that Senator Bromine has committed any crime." He paused for a moment and took a breath. "I now call Senator Bromine himself to the stand."

"Senator Bromine to the stand," the bailiff called out.

Bromine stood up and walked to the stand, placing his right hand on the Bible, and holding his left up in the air. There was much murmuring in the crowd.

"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the bailiff asked.

"I do," the senator replied, taking a seat on the witness stand.

"Senator," the defense attorney said, taking a step towards the witness stand, "you have heard the prosecution's accusations that you did at some time during last December, accept a bribe from the late Tony Renaldi."

"Yes," Bromine answered, in a dull tone.

"What is your answer?"

"I never accepted a bribe from anyone. My answer is the whole thing is a peck of lies!"

With that, the courtroom burst into noise as spectators gasped and a few even cheered.

The judge called for order again. Once the room was quieted, the defense called out, "Your witness!" and sat down.

The prosecuting attorney stood up. He was a young looking black man with a shaved head, goatee, and glasses.

"Senator Bromine," he said, with quite a bit of debonair, "do you deny that on December sixteenth of last year, you received a visit from the late Tony Renaldi in your room at the Maximillion Hotel?"

The senator looked a little confused and scared at the same time. "Why, no," he said. "He came to see me and - "

"Confine yourself to specific answers, senator," the prosecutor interrupted. He turned to face the jury. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defense has made much of the senator's long and illustrious career of public service. They would have you believe that the defendant, Senator Bromine, is above suspicion. They paraded witnesses to the stand, who have told you of the senator's good deeds, his acts of charity, his unselfish devotion to public service, his blameless personal life in the past. That we do not contempt, refute, nor deny. But unfortunately for Senator Bromine, he is not being tried for his past.

"We the prosecution need but one more bit of evidence to complete our case!" The lawyer stopped for a dramatic pause. "We have that evidence!" he announced.

Again, the noise level in the courtroom raised, and the judge banged his gavel.

The prosecutor continued. "I request permission to show the jury a video of a meeting between the defendant and the late Tony Renaldi, whose bribe of five hundred thousand dollars, paid to the defendant, is the basis of this case."

"Does this video have direct bearing on this case, Mr. Prosecutor?" the judge asked.

"Yes, sir, Your Honor."

The judge turned to the defense. "Does the defense have any objection to the introduction of this piece of evidence, without due notice?"

The defense attorney stood up. "Senator Bromine does not have anything to fear from the introduction of any authentic video record of any meeting between himself and Tony Renaldi, even though it was made without the senator's knowledge."

"Very well. Again, I caution the spectators of any outbursts of any kind," the judge said. A second bailiff wheeled in a TV as the lights in the courtroom dimmed. "No one may be allowed to leave the courtroom until the introduction of this evidence is complete. You may continue, Mr. Prosecutor."

The bailiff had placed the television so the jury had full view of the monitor. Fortunately, Lamont and Victor also had full view of the screen from their angle.

"Your Honor!" the defense called out.

"The defense has a question?" the judge asked.

"For the record," the lawyer asked, "will the prosecution state at whose request this video was made?"

"It was made at the request of one John Vogel, an attorney of this city," the prosecutor replied.

"For what reason?"

"As a citizen interested in public welfare."

"Objection!" the defense attorney proclaimed.

"Overruled," the judge sighed. "The court can discuss the origins of the film after it has been presented."

The prosecutor returned to his chair and sat down, as did the defense attorney. The attendant hit play on the machine.

Lamont leaned over and whispered into Victor's ear, "Watch the jaw muscles."

First, the screen was blue, and then it quickly cut to a scene of a hotel room. The senator was sitting at the mini-desk, writing. There was a loud pounding at the door.

Bromine looked up. "Yes? Come in!" he called.

The door opened, and a large Italian man walked in. "Oh, hello, Renaldi. I've been expecting you," Bromine said when he saw who it was. Renaldi closed the door and walked over to the senator's desk.

"Now, looka here, a Senator Bromine," Renaldi said with his Italian accent, "why haven't I gotten that contract in Gotham for that Vestersig building? The money's been appropriated. You said you'd use your influence if we fished 'er out."

"Yes, of course, Renaldi," the senator answered, sounding a bit like a zombie. "I told you you'll get that contract. For a consideration. But you didn't get me my present of five hundred thousand, for swinging it your way, so naturally, I-"

"Oh, so that's it," Renaldi interrupted. "You want be paid off first, don't you?"

"Cash. No checks."

"Okay. You'll get your half million," Renaldi said, walking to the door. He opened it. "But get me that contract." With that, he walked out and shut the door.

The tape ended at that point, and the blue screen reappeared. People started talking in the courtroom.

The judge banged his gavel again. "Order!" he called. "Order in the court!"

"That's the end of the film," the prosecutor announced.

"It's a lie!" Bromine pleaded. "It's a lie! I never said those words!"

"Your honor!" the defense shouted out. "I object! My client never had such a conversation with Tony Renaldi! That video is a fake!"

"One moment," the judge said. "The attendant will please turn on the lights."

"Your honor," the prosecutor said with the same calmness and composure that he had used while giving his case. "May I remind the defense that pictures do not lie."

"Your honor," the defense rebutted, "we do not deny that the meeting between Senator Bromine and Tony Renaldi did take place in the manner shown in this film, but, we deny that any such conversation took place!"

"Have you any proof of that?" the judge asked.

"There are only two people who could know what went on in that room: Senator Bromine and Renaldi. And Renaldi is dead!"

"Do you deny that the voice was that of the defendant's?"

"My client admits that it sounds like his voice, but it cannot be, since he never asked nor received a bribe from the late Tony Renaldi for any reason or purpose whatever! Your Honor, I ask a recess of this trial, in order that the defense have an opportunity to study this film."

"I object!" the prosecutor cried out.

The judge thought for a moment. "I do not see how the due process of law will be delayed by a twenty-four hour delay. Objection overruled. Court is ajourned until ten o'clock tomorrow morning." He banged his gavel.

People began moving around in the courtroom. Most were shocked by this piece of evidence. Natalie and the Cranstons stood up and walked outside to their car.

"Mr. Cranston," Natalie said, once they were driving home, "after seeing that film of Senator Bromine meeting Renaldi and practically demanding a bribe, how could anyone doubt his case?"

"Young Natalie," Lamont answered. "The Greeks had a philosophy that goes something like this: Only believe half that you see and nothing you hear."

"But that was the senator's voice! Even he couldn't deny it."

"No man knows the sound of his own voice."

"Besides," Victor spoke up, "Bromine never spoke those words to Renaldi."

"But you saw him!" Natalie said. "You saw the video!"

"Exactly, and that's how we know," Victor replied. "Videos can be faked easily anyway. I'm surprised they even allowed that in court without prior examination."

"How exactly did you figure that out? Or is that one of your inherited superpowers?"

Victor chuckled. "He told me what to look for. Have you ever noticed how a person's jaw moves when they speak, and form certain words?"

"You mean you know what he really said?" Natalie asked.

"No, his face was turned away from the camera. We couldn't see his lips moving."

"We don't know what he did say, but we do know that he didn't utter the words we just heard," Lamont added. "Oh, Victor, take a left turn here." He pointed down the road.

"But that was still the senator's voice," Natalie argued. "I would swear to it."

"And so would a jury," Lamont replied. "Unless something is done within the next twenty-four hours, one of the finest men in the country - an innocent man - will be put in prison to rot for fifteen years by his political enemies." He paused and pointed to a large building in front of them. "Victor, pull into this parking lot."

"The lawyer's building?" Victor asked. "Why are we here?"

"No, the question is why are you here?"

"You mean, you want me . . . "

"No, I want the Shadow to go inside, up to the twenty-fifth floor, and make an appointment with one of the most crooked lawyers in the city."

"Who?" Victor asked.

"John Vogel was so interested in the public welfare that he went to the extreme of having a hidden camera planted in Senator Bromine's hotel suite."

"And you want the Shadow to find out why." Victor thought for a moment. Then, he pulled the trunk release, got out of the car, and opened the trunk. Inside was the Shadow's cloak. He put it on, and turned invisible.

As he walked to the building, Natalie turned to Lamont.

"Is this how you did things when you were the Shadow?" she asked.

Lamont sighed. "No. I didn't have anyone to guide me. But, I was older. I hope that I haven't pushed Victor into anything too bad for a boy his age."

Natalie put her hand on Lamont's. She had been friends with Victor and his family for so long, she almost thought of Lamont like a third grandfather.

"I don't think so. He wouldn't be doing this if he didn't want to, or if he thought he wasn't ready."

Lamont smiled. "I guess so."

Meanwhile, the Shadow walked into the building, and headed for the elevator.

Next issue: The Shadow's first case ends with a verdict.