“All Rise"

Fiction by Sidney B. Silverman

For part one of "All Rise" click here. 

PART TWO

Judge Milton Black has been found murdered in the federal courthouse, and assistant F.B.I. director Grace Loomey and federal marshal Henry Rogers are on the case. 

The next step was to talk to the dead judge’s colleagues, friends, family. A million leads, but no other way to conduct an investigation.

Then came the profiles. They were going to be an essential tool.

“I read you on the case of the Russian diplomat in the Daily News,” Henry told Grace. That had been the one that made her famous. “There was no witness, no apparent motive. You said you developed three profiles, the crime scene, the victim, and what was the third?? And lo and behold, the assassin’s profile appeared. But how are you going to profile the courthouse?”

Grace was amazed and flattered at how much he remembered. “Serge Kutznetsov was five years ago,” she said. “I got a lot of attention in the press. The media was intrigued, I guess because a woman counterintelligence agent in the F.B.I. is unusual, and the murder had international repercussions. I still remember the call from the director: ‘The next time you’re interviewed, be sure and mention my name. We’re an organization run from the top, not a collection of superstars.’ Soon after, I was demoted to a field agent. I learned my lesson.”

“But,” she continued, “profiling the crime scene is the easiest one. The known is reliable. We know Judge Black was murdered just after he left the judges’ elevator. There’s no blood in the elevator. They probably left the way they came.” She paused. “But how did they get the weapon past the metal detector? How did they gain access to the judges’ private elevator?”

“Judges, lawyers, and court personnel are not screened,” the marshal told her. He knew the ins and outs of the courthouse, and how he used that knowledge in profiling it could turn out to be the highlight of his life. “I carry a gun, for instance,” he said. “Do you think it was an inside job?” 

It was so obvious. And Grace hadn’t even considered it.

“Maybe.”

Time to talk to the judges.

Chief Judge Reilly understood that the F.B.I. would have to designate the entire building a crime scene. “I estimate the search will take about three days,” the F.B.I. agent Grace Loomey told him. “During this time, only judges and court personnel will be allowed in.”

He nodded. All judges should remain in their chambers for the rest of the day and return in the morning, she told him. “I hope they will be able to throw some light on this dark case.”

Before Judge Reilly issued the order, he called Judge Sanford Aldridge, chief administrative judge of the courts of New York State, to ask whether there were empty courtrooms in downtown New York that his judges could use for emergency hearings. He also wanted to talk.

“I’m distraught about Judge Black. I met him a few times at judicial conventions. Who would want to kill him? And such a violent death,” Aldridge told Reilly. He looked around his own office, as if assassins were going to come for him any minute.

“Any chance you might have a few extra courtrooms for emergency hearings?” Reilly asked.

“Of course,” said Aldridge. “On any given day, there are about five empty courtrooms. I’ll direct my clerk to post locations of the available ones in the rotunda of the Supreme Court building. Most of them will be there. One or two may be across the street in the Criminal Court building. That’s a ratty old building. It should have been closed decades ago. But you know how it is, judicial emergencies are like every other kind of emergency. You take what you can get.”

After his call with Aldridge, Reilly sent a memo around. “It is with great sadness that I report the violent death of our brother, Milton Black. A murder investigation is underway by the F.B.I. The agent in charge, Grace Loomey, an assistant director of the agency, has declared the courthouse an extended crime scene, and asked that the building be closed for the next three days while she and her team search for forensic evidence. In the interim, Judge Aldridge has offered state courtrooms for emergency hearings. Their location will be posted daily at 10 a.m. on a wall of the rotunda in the State Supreme Court building.” 

“The courthouse is to be evacuated in accordance with procedure established by the F.B.I. Our private elevator has been taken out of service, and doors leading to stairways have been locked. Public elevators are the sole means of egress.”

“The F.B.I. requests all judges and court officers remain in the building and make themselves available for interviews. If not on emergency duty, judges should return daily to their chambers.” 

“Through notices published in the New York Law Journal, I will keep you informed of the progress of the investigation, and when the courthouse will reopen.”

In Judge Black’s antechamber, Wiggins and Townsend, the forensic team, were almost finished. Grace was impatient. She felt like she was treading water. She needed to get to that dagger. “I stopped counting the bags of evidence when I reached 25,” she taunted them. “Have you got the case solved?”

Wiggins smiled. “Who knows better than you? The more stuff we grab, the less we know. No surprise. They wiped everything.” 

Grace and Henry followed the team along what was looking more and more like the escape route. With tweezers, hand-held vacuums, and other tools of the trade, they’d gathered and marked bits and pieces along the way. A thread here, a strand of hair there. She’d learned to be as patient as Job, and to trust in DNA.

“How did they get the dagger past the metal detector?” she demanded. “I want to test it first.”

“It was the first thing we did,” Townsend assured her. Any likely forensic evidence had been removed and packaged, he said, handing her the dagger, now free of blood. She rolled up her pants and taped it to her leg. 

“It looks and feels strange,” she told them. “It’s anything but ordinary.” 

She turned to Rogers. “Henry, call a security officer, one whose duties include monitoring the metal detector. Ask him to wait for us in the lobby. I wonder if I can get past the machine.” 

She decided not to wait for the investigators to finish and hurried downstairs, where the six lines were practically empty. The seventh now had about 20 people, over half of them women. 

The marshals said the persons without photo IDs were there on court business, either on jury panels, or part of the pool of prospective jurors. All had been summoned. In addition, the marshals had verified that they lived where they said they did.

Richard Williams, chief of security, was waiting. Grace got right to the point. “I’d like to see how many bells and whistles sound when I pass through the metal detector.”

Williams stood by as she walked through. It was as she’d suspected. 

She hadn’t yet come across a weapon made in a 3-D printer, but the damn thing could make a gun from a plastic bag that could fire a bullet. If a dagger was scanned, the printer could reproduce it, with the plastic as rigid as steel. 

She held it up, pointed at the ceiling. Williams took it. She could tell he knew what it was, too.

“Why are criminals always ahead of law enforcement with technology?” he asked. “Security at the federal courthouses needs to be updated, but where’s the money?” It was true. They were always playing catch-up, Grace thought. 

“You ever hear about the cow and the barn door?” Williams added.

“I mean no insult to our judges, but there are still plenty of cows in the barn,” Henry said.

That’s one riddle unraveled, Grace thought. If only the motive could be as easily resolved, we’d have the assassins. 

 


Sidney B. Silverman, an Amagansett resident, was a corporate litigator for 43 years. After retiring, he earned a master’s degree with a concentration in philosophy from Columbia University. In addition to a memoir, “A Happy Life: From Courtroom to Classroom,” he is the author of six novels, including “All Rise,” from which this is an excerpt.