The Writings of Michael J. Bowler

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The most famous boy in the world is a prisoner. He’s been charged with a crime he didn’t commit, a crime that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. Languishing within The Compound, the most secure juvenile facility in California, while the district attorney vows to make an example of him because of his celebrity status, Lance must endure the daily indignities of the incarcerated.

New Camelot is fractured without him. Ricky and Chris are bereft, living for the weekly phone call that becomes their only lifeline to the brother they so desperately love, while Arthur and Jenny feel the loss of their son with a sadness that can’t be quelled. And what about Michael, the highly volatile teen who helped write the proposition that will change California forever? Could he really be the monster he says he is? His hatred of Ricky is palpable, and his instability may well threaten the lives of everyone at New Camelot.

As the election looms closer, Proposition 51 takes on an even greater significance in light of the pending trial of the century. The more harshly fifteen-year-old Lance is treated within the broken justice system, the more he contemplates the wisdom of his idea that children need more adult rights. If The Child Voter Act becomes law, won’t it simply allow adults to throw more kids into prison with impunity?

Whichever way the voters decide, his greatest fear remains the same: will he ever again be with the people he loves?

The Knight Cycle Continues…

Do not read this if you have not read the first two books in the series. These books do NOT standalone.

Once upon a time in the City of Angels, a boy was arrested, and the world paused...

The media trailed the black and white all the way to the Hollywood station, and many reporters arrived there first. Thus cameras rolled when Lance was summarily yanked from the back of the cruiser by the aggressive cop so hard his shoulders shrieked with pain, and then shoved up the steps into the station. He had to keep shaking his unrestrained hair out of his face just to see where he was going because of the rough pushing and dragging by the officer.

Reporters had already massed within the lobby. They snapped pictures and threw questions right and left at Lance, but he still felt slightly dazed by the crack to his head and the enormity of his circumstances. All he could do was look uncertainly from beneath his hair as the faces and cameras flew past.

The cop dragged him to a room with one door and no windows and slammed him hard into a stiff-backed wooden chair. Pain shot up his back, but he forced himself not to make a sound, not to even grimace. The asshole cop and his partner stepped from the room and closed the door. Lance heard the lock click, sealing him within.

His mind whirled as he sat painfully in the chair. His hands had long since gone numb, and his shoulders felt like they were being wrenched from their sockets. Attempted murder? What the hell? Who was he supposed to have almost killed? Or was this another attempt to derail their election objective, a trumped up scandal to destroy his credibility in the eyes of the voters, credibility he’d worked so hard to regain after those early drunken escapades? He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He hadn’t done anything wrong. They’d have to see that soon and let him go, right?

His mind then fixed upon the desperately lost and terrified look he’d seen in Ricky’s wide brown eyes. His bro. His best friend. The most remarkable boy he’d ever known. In many ways, more remarkable even than Jack, Lance realized, as he sat quietly in that tiny room, waiting for who knew what. His heart felt hollow and sad as he thought of his family, of his mom and dad and brothers and sisters. But Ricky filled the largest place in that hollow heart, he realized forlornly. This was the first time they’d been apart since Ricky joined the family, and Lance felt lost and alone without him, as though the better half of him had been ripped away.

“Oh, Ricky...” he murmured to the empty room.

It didn’t take long before a fortyish-looking guy wearing a nicely tailored coat and tie stepped into the room and closed the door. He was Caucasian, tall and well groomed, flashing a badge before Lance’s disinterested face.

“Good morning, Lance,” the man said amiably, slipping his badge back into his pocket. “I’m Sergeant Cooper. I believe you’ve already met my partner, Sergeant Wallace?”

Lance said nothing. He merely looked up at the man’s face impassively. His thoughts remained on Ricky.

Cooper indicated the camera in the upper corner of the room. “This camera is recording everything, Lance, so there’ll be no doubt that I’ve read you your rights as the law requires.”

Again, Lance gazed blankly at the man, but remained mute.

Cooper sighed and slipped a well-worn laminated three-by-five card from his pocket and proceeded to read from it.

“You have the right to remain silent. If you give up your right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at government expense. Do you understand these rights as I’ve read them to you?”

Lance nodded.

Cooper frowned. “I need an audible response for the camera, Lance.”

Lance said, “Yes, I understand.”

Cooper smiled and slipped the card back into his jacket pocket. “Good. Knowing and understanding your rights as I’ve explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”

Lance shook his head. “No, sir.”

Cooper put on the good-cop face and seated himself across from Lance. The boy merely eyed him numbly.

“You know, Lance, though we have an arrest warrant, you’re not yet formally charged with a crime. My questions are merely for the purpose of determining your whereabouts last night. All I’m trying to do is establish where you were in relation to where the crime occurred and lay out an approximate timeline. You don’t need an attorney for that, do you?” He flashed perfect white teeth, making Lance feel like the guy should be on one of those toothpaste commercials.

Lance sighed and shook his head knowingly. “I grew up on the streets, Sergeant,” he stated flatly, “and I know all yer guy’s tricks, all that good-cop crap.” He chuckled sadly. “Known a grip ’a kids who went to jail cuz you guys just wanted to, what did you say, ‘establish a timeline’? No thanks, man. I’ll wait for my dad and my lawyer.”

Cooper frowned. “You know it could go much worse for you if you don’t cooperate, especially you being the ‘The Boy Who Came Back’ and all. A lot of D.A.’s like to make examples out of famous people like you.”

Lance laughed hollowly. “Like I don’t already know that? Like I don’t know how you cops treat us kids like crap cuz we got no rights in this country? Well, things’ll be different when our prop passes. For now, feel free to leave and take your BS with you. Sir.”

Lance gazed up at the man without expression. No smugness, no haughtiness. Just a steady look that masked the fear churning through him.

Cooper smiled admiringly and stood. “Cool as a cucumber, eh?” He chuckled. “Well, we’ll see how cool you are when you’re booked for attempted murder and sent to the hall.” He left the room.

Lance exhaled the breath he’d inadvertently been holding and turned his eyes upward toward the camera in the corner. He knew they were watching, but he also knew giving them attitude would not help his case. So he refrained from sticking out his tongue. Just the thought of doing that almost made him smile because he saw in his mind’s eye Ricky’s face twisted up with laughter at the sight. The ache in his heart grew stronger just thinking of the other boy.

So rather than think of Ricky, or anyone else, Lance sat and waited, the cuffs no longer painful because now his forearms and shoulders were numb. He wondered briefly if this was what frostbite felt like.

He knew his dad and Sergeant Ryan would be along any minute, so he tried not to dwell on just how much trouble he might be in. He’d never committed any crimes, so had never gotten caught up in the so-called justice system. But he’d known enough kids who hadn’t been so lucky, and once in the system they never seemed to get out. He had often thought getting arrested was like sinking in quicksand, except it was more like slow-sand because everything took forever, and yet you still never got out. At least, he never saw most of those kids on the streets again.

After some time passed – Lance had no idea how long, but he was thirsty and hungry – the door opened and Cooper returned. Lance scowled, until Arthur stepped in behind him.

“Dad!” Lance exclaimed happily as he leapt to his feet, his heart beating wildly with love and relief.

Arthur was followed by Ryan and Sam, and Lance instantly felt better. This would all be resolved now and he could go home. Home to ... he’d meant to think of everyone, but it was only Ricky’s face that came to mind.

Sam eyed Lance’s hands cuffed behind him and looked at Cooper. “Uncuff my client, Sergeant.”

Cooper hesitated.

“Has he been booked, Sergeant?” Sam asked curtly.

“Not yet,” Cooper admitted, and Sam glowered at him.

Reluctantly, Cooper went around behind Lance and released his painful wrists from their imprisonment. When Lance slowly and stiffly lifted his arms to lay his hands down on the table, Arthur gasped at the deep red welts around the boy’s wrists, sharply contrasting against the light brown of his skin. Sam shook his head with disgust.

“Was this necessary, Sergeant?” Sam asked, lifting one of Lance’s arms to indicate the red and already swelling wrist. Lance winced just from the touch, but at least blood was returning to his arms and hands.

Cooper shrugged matter-of-factly. “Just routine, Counselor, especially when a suspect is considered violent and dangerous.”

Lance eyed the man with astonishment. Him? Violent and dangerous?

Cooper waved in a few more chairs, delivered by the cop who’d slammed Lance’s head into the car. The man tossed the boy an amused “I’ll be seeing you later” look before exiting the room and shutting the door.

The men sat around the table, Arthur and Sam near to Lance, and Ryan on Cooper’s side.

Arthur put a hand on Lance’s shoulder and it took all the boy’s willpower not to hug his father.

“Shall we begin then?” Cooper asked cheerily, eliciting a scowl from Sam, who turned to Lance.

“You don’t have to answer any questions, Lance, and if I think a question is inflammatory or out of line, I’ll advise you not to answer.”

Lance nodded and looked across the table at Cooper.

“Now then, Lance, let’s start with your whereabouts last night. Where were you between the hours of eleven p.m. and one a.m.?”

“Asleep at home,” Arthur put in immediately, and Sam held up a cautionary hand.

“Let the boy answer, Arthur.”

Lance bowed his head shamefully before looking over at Arthur. “I snuck out, Dad.”

Arthur’s mouth dropped open in shock, and Lance felt, more than saw, the disappointment in the man.

“And where did you sneak out to, Lance?” Cooper asked, as though he already knew the answer.

Lance swallowed and gazed uncertainly at Sam, who nodded. “A park in Hollywood.”

“What park?”

“De Longpre,” Lance answered with a heavy sigh.

“What time was this?”

Lance shrugged. “I left the house around eleven, I guess.”

“Why were you going to De Longpre Park so late at night, and why did you feel the need to sneak around to do it?” Cooper asked.

Lance glanced again to Sam.

“Just tell us what you’re comfortable with, Lance,” the attorney advised.

Lance nodded. “I went to meet someone.”

Cooper smiled self-righteously. “Knowing, as we all do by now, that you like ‘variety’, was this person male or female?”

Lance blushed, realizing the man’s implication. Arthur frowned with confusion, but Sam shook his head in disgust.

“Caution, Sergeant. He is a minor.”

Cooper nodded, but retained the slight smile.

“Male,” Lance whispered, head bowed. He didn’t know why he felt so embarrassed. After all, he didn’t meet Michael for sex or anything. But just the way the man looked at him made him feel dirty.

“And why did you meet this male?” Cooper asked, emphasizing the word.

Lance looked up at him. “I needed to talk to him, that’s all.”

Cooper eyed him. “And that couldn’t have been done over the phone?”

Lance shook his head. “Sometimes you gotta look a guy in the eye, you know?”

Cooper chuckled. “I probably wouldn’t know about that.”

Again that tone caused Lance to burn red with shame and he felt even more unclean.

Cooper gazed across at him. “Care to share the name of this unidentified male you met?”

“No,” Lance said quickly. “He’s got nothing to do with this. Whatever it is.”

Cooper nodded. “Very well.” He reached into his pocket and slipped out a photo, keeping the white back facing Lance. “Do you recognize this man?”

He turned the photo around and Lance gasped loudly.

“I see you do.”

Lance gulped, his heart rate increasing, his breathing becoming ragged. Even the man’s picture had that effect on him, and he hated himself for being so weak.

“It’s Richard,” he whispered. Richard just as he’d looked when he ...

Arthur suddenly took notice of the picture, and Sam leaned forward to get a better look.

“And who is Richard?” Cooper asked, though it was obvious to Lance that he already knew the answer.

Lance shivered and fought to control his breathing. “He was an old foster parent of mine.”

“At what age?”

Lance blew out a breath and struggled to keep his voice from quavering. Somewhere deep inside, he knew Cooper was enjoying this, enjoying how rattled he was making him.

“From six to nine.”

Arthur placed another hand on Lance’s shoulder to help calm him, and the boy shot him a weak smile of gratitude.

Cooper sat back confidently, still holding the picture in front so Lance couldn’t help but see it. “At one of your press conferences, you alleged that a foster parent raped you. Is that correct?”

Weakly, unable to look up at that photo any longer, Lance looked down and nodded.

Cooper leaned forward and shoved the picture under Lance’s downturned eyes. “Is this the man who raped you, Lance?”

“I object,” Sam exclaimed loudly. “What has this boy’s traumatic past to do with our being here now?”

Cooper eyed the attorney coolly. “Merely trying to establish motive.”

“Motive?” Sam repeated angrily, and then turned to Lance. “You don’t need to answer these questions, Lance.”

Lance raised his eyes from the photo and pinned them to Cooper’s face. “Yeah, he’s the one.”

“Again, Sergeant,” Sam boomed with irritation, “what is the relevance of these questions?”

Cooper kept his eyes pinned to Lance. “Because someone attacked, mutilated and left this man for dead last night.”

Lance gasped in shock, and so did Arthur.

Sam was incredulous. “And you think my client... that’s preposterous.”

Cooper’s eyes never left Lance’s face, even as he spoke to Sam. “Is it? The timeline fits. There was supposedly some secret liaison with another ‘male’ who as far as we know never existed. And there’s motive.”

Lance was so rattled he blurted out, “He was fine when I left him. I swear it!”

Arthur gasped again, as did Ryan, and Sam leapt from his chair.

“Lance, not another word!”

But Cooper had gotten what he wanted. He lay the photo face down on the table and sat back calmly. “Anything else you’d like to share, Sir Lance?”

Lance nervously eyed Sam, who shook his head. “My client is finished, Sergeant.”

Cooper sighed and stood. “Very well.” He opened the door and ushered the two cops back in, handing them the cuffs. “Stand up, Lance.”

Reluctantly, his legs shaking, Lance stood. The same asshole cop slapped the cuffs back onto his wrists, hard, and Lance couldn’t believe that they were even tighter than before.

“Lance Pendragon,” Cooper intoned very authoritatively. “You are hereby charged with attempted murder, great bodily injury, mayhem, and assault with a deadly weapon.”

He turned to Sam and Arthur. “Given the gravity of the crime, and the evidence we already have, I’m confident your client will be a direct file, Counselor.”

“What does that mean?” Arthur asked, fear coursing through him.

Cooper turned to the king as though he enjoyed flummoxing the man. “That means, King Arthur, your son will go straight to adult court. If convicted, he’ll likely never see the streets again.”

“What evidence do you have to justify this arrest, Sergeant?” Sam asked indignantly.

“A video of your client threatening to mutilate Mr. Thornton with a knife. No confession needed.”

Lance’s mouth dropped open in shock. How could this be happening? A video? What video? Richard had been fine when he’d taken off the night before.

Lance’s knees felt weak, and his head spun.

Cooper nodded to the uniforms and they shoved Lance toward the door.

“Dad!” Lance cried out in despair, but before Arthur could even reach for his son, the boy had been pushed out into the hall and lost to his view.

Cooper turned to both men. “I believe we’re done here, gentlemen.”

Staggered by all that had happened, Arthur dolefully followed Sam and Ryan from the interrogation room just in time to see Lance dragged through the phalanx of reporters who hurled question after question at the boy. Lance tried to look back to catch his father’s eye, but the cops yanked his arms, sending sharp stabbing pain through his shoulders and back.

Then he was gone.

The reporters swarmed around the distraught Arthur, and Sam kept repeating, “No comment, no comment” until they were out of the station and back in Ryan’s sedan.

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