|Infinity Hold Series
Kill All The Lawyers
Keep The Law
Author's Introduction to:
an essay on law, gangs, justice,
group therapy, and a story
set in Hell's hell.
by Barry B. Longyear
When reading a new book, I usually skip introductions and go right for the story assuming that a competently written tale should speak for itself. I find that I am not alone in this. Many readers have no interest in the story about the story and skip intros hoping that no information vital to the yarn will be passed over. Such is the case here. If you want to streak straight for one of the best stories I have ever written, go for it with a clear conscience. Nothing necessary to understanding the story will be recounted in this section. If you have an interest in why I wrote it and why it turned out the way it did, however, I’m afraid it’s rather vital to read this introduction, for the information appears nowhere else.
What if a couple of what ifs got together? What if the refuse both produced and discarded by a cumbersome, lawyer heavy, justice starved legal system were dumped and set free unsupervised in an alien world to either die, be killed, or work things out on their own? What if you really can’t con a con? What if you take a murderer and inveterate cop-hater, place him and his fellow convicts in a situation where their only chance of survival is to come up with an efficient, just legal system, and make that cop-hater the society’s first police officer?
There is an under society out there whose methods, goals, attitudes, and senses of right and wrong are every bit as foreign to us as is the Taliban’s or some unimaginable nest-based social order from an alien planet. Our under society is called “crime.” This covers everything from a junky shoplifting a candy bar to serial mass murderers. And we—you, me, business, academia, and government—are at a loss as to what to do about “crime.”
Throw money at it, create jobs, improve education, stop drugs, increase beatings, lock them all away, let them all loose to do community service, educate them, love them, scorn them, pay them, kill them and none of it seems to do any good. But, then, “good” is defined differently by “crime.”
To this particular multi-leveled social caste, the justice system is not the source of the social stability we refer to as “civilization.” Instead, the justice system is just another gang against which they must compete.
Many are stunned, confused, or outraged by this attitude. Just another gang? How could anyone become so stupid, twisted, or corrupt as to believe such a thing?
There’s a kid behind bars right now who is guilty as hell of some crime, but who knows just as certain as death at the end of a short life that if he had gotten the same level of defense as that received by O. J. Simpson, he’d still be on the street. No one on this planet disputes that, certainly no one who has been through the ironically named criminal justice system. And then the kid sees that “Equal Justice Under the Law” inscription some naive architect had inscribed above the entrance to the court house. You have to smile; the price of crying is too high. Anytime you find yourself behind walls and need to get a laugh, say something about equal justice under the law.
The cops are simply the soldiers of another crime family? Well, what is the police mission? There is as much confusion about that as there is in what the public school teacher mission is. The published mission has infrequent correspondence with what actually transpires. Is the public school teacher’s mission the enlightenment and preparation of children for life or is it to crush the competition through government regulation and taxation to achieve higher pay, more benefits, and less accountability? Is the police mission justice or clearing cases? Serving and protecting, or advancing within the organization? Law and order or blue solidarity? Let’s see:
Two unrelated murders take place on opposite sides of town: a prostitute and a police officer, both individuals killed in the line of duty. Want to take bets on which case gets the investigative resources? Want to guess which one gets solved first?
Well, a prostitute is breaking the law and is morally corrupt and is probably into drugs and might even be spreading AIDS. The dead police officer was enforcing the law and, whatever his faults, probably has the moral edge on a whore.
Are we saying, then, the cop “deserves” the preferred response?
Perhaps. It was just that “equal justice under the law” thing we were considering. One must ask, “equal for whom and under what circumstances?” When that youngster is on the block contemplating a choice between a well-paid if risky future as a criminal and being a less well-paid “honest” citizen who knows that the law is a rigged game, what can you tell him for why he should remain on the straight and narrow? He’s watched you during your reefer moments, speeding in traffic when you thought you could get away with it, and playing games with deductions on your income tax. Did he see you bribe a cop to get out of a traffic ticket? Or a building or health inspector? Or screw someone out of something you knew was his? Make any of those “smart” bargain purchases of auto parts, jewelry, or clothing offered by establishments who can afford such low prices by eliminating production costs through theft? Do you have any argument for why this kid should be honest, other than threatening to beat the crap out of him if he isn’t honest? Chances are, you have nothing to say to this kid.
Equal justice under the law.
When the innocence of a convicted criminal is, at last, revealed by subsequent circumstances, is the injured party immediately released, apologized to, monetary reparations made, and a media campaign conducted to attempt to repair the damage to his reputation done by the weeks or months of negative exposure when the poor boob was presumed guilty by a system required by law to presume him innocent?
No. The usual reaction is to throw out the anchors, lose the files, generate the fog, explain away, work the spin, not to correct a miscarriage of justice, but to cover butts. Mistakes happen, of course, but they aren’t all mistakes, are they?
How many times have jurors thought to themselves, I’m not absolutely sure he did this one, but I know he’s done something. How many times have cops jammed someone they know didn’t do the current deed simply to smack the perp’s knuckles for something they know he did do and couldn’t prove? How many times have prosecutors left out evidence that might serve the interests of the defense to nail someone they want nailed? All of this serves goals, none of which happens to be “equal justice under the law.”
How many members of this under class called “crime” see the slogan “To Serve and Protect” stenciled on police prowlers and secretly smile or curse, knowing from experience that the slogan should read: “To Clear Cases and Convict.”
No. No one in the joint is interested in any heart warming paeans to justice and the rule of law. Cons lie and can do time for it. Cops lie, too, but get commendations for it. They’re allowed to lie to obtain confessions. The Supreme Court says so. And no one is prepared to hold up lawyers as paradigms of virtue. If you’ve ever served on a jury, especially in a jurisdiction that forbids jurors to take notes during a trial, you quickly become aware that it’s an expensive, cumbersome, slow-playing game of “Who do you like?” Which attorney puts on the best show? Curiously enough, it works just like the NFL and the big leagues: the ones who are paid the most put on the best show. Smart players, the cynical deal makers, slip through the cracks, and the slow, the poor, the stupid, the unaware, the unconnected, as well as the honest and truly remorseful go away for a long, long time.
Which draws our attention to incarceration. Prisons and jails. Indeed, what’s the point? Correction? Rehabilitation? Deterrence? No. Few are so unsophisticated these days to believe that. It’s handy to have a place to hold a charged suspect until the accused’s trial is concluded. But once that guilty verdict comes down, what’s the point in prison? Originally, penitentiaries were places of meditation. A convicted criminal, by definition, had done “wrong,” and with sufficient time to reflect upon his or her ways, enlightenment would accrue, the forgiveness of a higher power would be sought, and a productive, god-fearing, law-abiding citizen would be the result. I don’t suppose there’s any need to describe what prisons actually do produce.
So John steals five thousand dollars from Harry, John is arrested, the taxpayers are soaked for twenty to forty times that to investigate John, try him, find him guilty, and put him up and away for a couple of bullets. Harry never gets his five grand back, but John makes new contacts for future jobs, gets his teeth fixed for free, learns how to make license plates and where to stick that shiv so it does the most good, and continues embellishing his attitude about “the system.” Once out, he can say, “I’ve paid my debt to society.” Okay, but what about his debt to Harry?
There are times when I wonder why everyone doesn’t think the way “crime” thinks. We’re all afraid of cops. Check your pulse the next time you see those blue lights in your rear window, no matter what you were or weren’t doing. Is the first thing that pops in your head, “This is a nation of laws; If I haven’t done anything wrong, I have nothing to worry about.”
Everybody knows that every one of us is breaking at least one of the hundreds of thousands of laws, rules, or regulations that cover us like a bad rash. When those blue lights flash, what pops into most minds is: “I’m caught! What’d I do? Is the cop going to jam me?” You begin cursing skin colors, clothing choices, length of hair, that new row of body piercings on your left ear. In our hearts we know that the law has very little to do with what happens next. It’s pretty much up to the cop: A notice, a warning, a citation, an order to exit the vehicle, face down on the asphalt with your hands cuffed behind you, a ride to the pokey awaiting charges, perhaps a few thumps, the course of your entire life altered depending on how some man or woman chooses to interpret his or her mission and act out the day’s frustrations. That’s what flashes through most minds when those blue lights appear in the rear view mirror.
Even cops are afraid of cops—their cops, at least: Internal Affairs. Do street cops and detectives look upon IAD investigators as honorable defenders of the purity of the jurisdiction’s cophood? Or do cops look upon IAD investigators as “rats,” “shoe-flies,” and—dare we say it—just another gang with which they must compete?
So, what is the law for? What is justice? Is it possible to have law that isn’t merely a game to play or a tool by which one group of thugs can gain an advantage over another? And what of the police officer, prosecutor, counsel for the defense, or judge who is actually an honorable person striving against impossible odds for this “justice” we all would like to see? The frustrated police officers I have known inspired a character in one of my as yet not published mysteries to explain to his father what it was like being a cop. “It’s like trying to bail out the Titanic with a thimble and taking the blame for all the wet feet.”
To top it off, there is the endless succession of victims, the recipient of all of this incompetence, venality, brutality, cruelty, insensitivity, and greed. What is “justice” for them? Paying them off ? Killing off the perpetrators? Or do we put them in jail too for attempting to defend themselves by means other than that provided in the law? All too often those in the system become trapped by the letter of the law, forgetting what the law was supposed to accomplish.
Meanwhile, as we are wrapped in fear,
loved ones, wiping up our blood and tears, and pondering all of these
issues, John (still in prison for stealing Harry’s money) sneaks into
cell and steals a carton of Bruno’s cigarettes. Bruno finds out about
to keep a secret in a small town), looks up John and cuts all
innocence off at the knees. Bruno takes his cigarettes back, lumps up
head a bit, and picks up a couple of other things of John’s for his
addition, Bruno promises to reach down John’s throat, grab his scrotum,
yank him inside out if he tries stealing anything from Bruno again.
transpired is something very ordinary, yet quite profound. No one
however, because it happened so quickly, so inexpensively, and in an
environment where such efficiency is taken for granted.
Stage two. Group therapy is based on a simple truth: you can’t con a con. An alcoholic in rehab sitting in group cleverly and charmingly trying to minimize what he has done will be challenged by the other alkies in the group every time because every sodden soul in that circle knows all of the games by heart. All of them have played those games until they are all experts. It works the same with drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, child molesters, rapists, schizophrenics, and … convicts.
In court, or a police station’s holding pen, where wrongdoers have an opportunity to witness one of their own pulling a song-and-dance on a cop, judge, or an ADA, look at the ones who don’t think they’re being observed. Smirks, chuckles, whispers, laughter—the amused superiority of the knowing.
Take a vicious little street punk, put him in a white collar with a big bow, pluck all that chain mail out of his face, brush his hair, polish his Buster Browns, have him look at that judge with big, wide eyes and say, “I swear I didn’t do it, judge, and I promise I’ll never do it again.” Then watch the heads shake and the shoulders quake as the judge buys it and issues a little wrist slap. The knowing ones know what has just taken place, and they know the result. The laughs die away, though, because a fiction that crime too, in their deepest souls, would like to believe in has just been shown once again to be just another pipe dream: Law and order.
Meanwhile, Bruno is back in his cell, smoking one of his butts, with no complaints. Justice for him has been served. You will note that in this example, Bruno did not rat out John to the guards and attempt to seek justice through “the system.” It’s not just the universal prohibition against being a rat, either. There just isn’t any point in seeking justice through “the system.” Not for cons. Perhaps not for anyone.
You let that kind of stuff fester in your brain long enough, and Infinity Hold3 begins demanding to be told. I admit it: stories push me around all of the time, especially this one. It went places where I didn’t want to go and dished up some characters and situations I didn’t want to have in my pages. Of course, as this group of cons would be happy to point out to you, as they pointed it out to me, they own the pages.
Infinity Hold3 tells of a different kind of lawgiver with a different kind of law. Indeed, it’s a different attitude about law. When I began it was just a story. By the time I finished, there was a body of enforced domestic and foreign law that still seems to make more sense to me than the system under which I live.
The novel Infinity Hold was first published in 1989, but due to publishing limitations and practices at the time, most of the story had to be left out. The work was reissued in the same form through the Author’s Guild Backinprint.com program in December of 2000. Now, thanks to print-on-demand technology and the same program, I am pleased to be able to bring you the full story published as Infinity Hold3.
These are not pretty people, they are not in a pretty place, and pretty things don’t happen to them. Every now and then, though, a thing called “justice” peeks through. Enough readers got caught up with these characters and what they did as they struggled to make order out of hell to encourage me and keep me at my efforts over the years to bring them and you the remainder of this tale. A number of those readers were police officers, and a larger number were convicts and ex-convicts. The convicts expressed the belief that I could not have written Infinity Hold without having done hard time. The police officers wanted to know if I was or had been “on the job.” Very big complements, both of them.
Is a full series likely, with additional works coming in the future? It is very possible. At the end of Infinity Hold3 there is still a huge amount of work left to do on Tartaros. I think I’d like to try my hand at it.
—Barry B. Longyear
The B&N and Books-A-Million links go to title Infinity Hold but the book being sold in each is Infinity Hold\3.
||Top of Page