Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law

© 2011 Glen Cadigan

Originally published in Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law Vol. 1

I don't remember the first time that I enlisted the services of Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law, but I must have been rather desperate (or inebriated) because even then they had a reputation for being particular. In fact, the only reason why they took me on as a client was because they believed I was guilty, a fact of which I then attempted to disabuse them, but to no avail.

"So you say that you've been accused of stealing millions of debits from your employer, who has since mysteriously vanished?"

"It's not millions of debits, it's billions of debits. And yes, Mr. Landry has since disappeared, but I had nothing to do with that."

It turned out that Bedlam & Belfry usually defended guilty clients as a matter of principle because that's where the money was. Innocent individuals, such as myself, were often dirt poor, and charity cases frequently lost their luster when they dragged on for months in court. On the other hand, guilty parties usually paid in unmarked cash, and, as such, the barristers at 32 London Lane were more than happy to see their faces on the holos when the latest corporate scandal hit the news. Bedlam & Belfry were corporate shillmeisters, regulars on lite-news infotainment programs which treated the dalliances of the incredibly wealthy or incredibly sneaky as serious news. They were also masters of prolonging even the simplest of trials with continuances and other horseplay, and it was even rumoured that they had the occasional judge on their payroll. When the money train pulled up to Bedlam & Belfry's station, huge tippers were usually on board and pockets were inevitably filled. That much I knew about them going in; the rest I figured out as the trial dragged on.

Now, when I say that I don't remember the first time that I hired Bedlam & Belfry, I mean that I don't remember the particulars of it. At that time in my life my mind was swirling with dangerous visions of what might happen to me if I ended up in prison, and I was dodging the paparazzi every time that I set foot outside of my door. My face was on all of the news programs as the latest corporate swindler who had stolen money from pension accounts and widows' and orphans' funds, and to say that I was painted as a master villain in the press is understating affairs. I was reviled, spat upon, and hung out to dry by everyone who had known me, and especially by those who didn't. Editorials were written about how nasty I was, and polls were circulated gauging public opinion on what should happen to me. Salt mining on Mars was a popular choice, as was deep sea explorer – in outer space. All of the negative press only served in my favour in one regard: it convinced Bedlam & Belfry that they absolutely must take me on as a client, post haste.

Their office then was as it is now -- lavishly decorated, yet located downwind from a tuna cannery, so the scent of fresh fish permeated the air. As successful as they were, they were looked down upon by regal barristers as loathsome gutter types (which they were, in a sense, and proud of it), so proper accommodations were difficult to come by. Belfry came from a working class background while Bedlam's parents once had money, then lost it in shady business dealings. They ended up on the same block as the Belfrys, still crazy after nine generations of police informality, where the two met and became friends. It was somewhat scandalous when their youngest son took on the law as a profession (since the Belfrys were used to reviling lawyers as partially successful in court but 100% successful in seeing their financial needs taken care of), and it took them some time, as well as promised future family discounts, to come around and support their wayward son in his endeavours. He didn't prove to be any more successful at keeping his family out of prison than his predecessors had been, but with the discount it was a much less bitter pill to swallow.

Where was I? Oh, yes, their offices. They were nice, considering the smell, and I don't remember how I wound up there, only that I took a cab that dropped me off three blocks away because the cabbie didn't want to get the odour of fish in his vehicle. I wandered my way forward, guided by the aroma, and stumbled up the stairs to their floor. At first they didn't want to see me because of my appearance, for I was a sight to behold, unwashed and unshaven for days, my mind having been so preoccupied with my predicament, but when they sifted through the smell and combed over hair they recognized who they were dealing with and ushered me into their boardroom for a chat. They pestered me with questions to verify details that they already knew, then announced that they'd take my case. They gave false support to my claims of innocence, and informed me that payment would be all right when it came, and not a minute sooner. I think they suspected me of having a secret stash of cash that I could only dip into when the heat had died down, and so were not concerned that I had just six debits to my name and that my landlady had evicted me that morning, not wanting such a "terrible thing" living in her building. "Think of all the people whose money you stole," she'd say. "They'll need a place to stay, soon." I wasn't certain if she was going to offer them my flat or not, but I didn't ask. My mind was a muddle, and my thinking wasn't clear that day. If it was, I might have chosen two different solicitors to represent my case.

"We'll take care of it," they said. "We'll put you up in a nice hotel where the paparazzi won't find you. We know a discreet, out of the way place where you can hole up for a while until the media is finished drubbing you. It'll all blow over eventually."

What they meant by that was they would shortly take to the airwaves to inform the public that they were representing me in all matters, pertaining to all affairs of which I had been (unjustly) accused. Their righteous indignation would fight back against the wall of negative perception until people were convinced that I was the victim here, which I was, so that suited me just fine. It was one less thing for me to worry about, let's just say.

Until then I would stay at this hotel that was operated by a former client of theirs, a man who was once accused of strangling his fiance with his shoelaces because she complained one time too often about his performance in the boudoir. They convinced the jury that it was a suicide, which was remarkable given the facts of the case, but they won nevertheless, and ever since that verdict they were silent partners in the man's enterprises, namely the hospitality industry. He tried to kill himself once when he realized that they'd never be out of his life, but then they convinced him that it was the undead spirit of his former wife who was putting such thoughts in his head and he believed them, so persuasive was their argument. I guess I thought then that having such men on my side was a good idea.

Needless to say, it wasn't long before I was discovered in my new abode, my attorneys having tipped off the media as to my whereabouts. My profile and that of their own were now intertwined, and so in order to increase their media presence, they also increased mine. They scheduled appointments with all of the major chat shows where we appeared together and answered no questions but instead professed my innocence and protested the abuse of due process that had led to my arrest. It was legal theatre at its finest, and I became even more convinced of my innocence, which was impressive as in the face of public opinion, I had begun to doubt it myself.

Surely, I thought, these men could convince a jury that I was the unfortunate victim of corporate greed that I professed to be? Surely they could point the finger at some other unfortunate soul, preferably one who couldn't afford adequate legal representation? The thought of my incarceration had already begun to induce in me nightmares, and being of a delicate condition, I hesitated to think of being transported to some distant penal colony where the inmates engaged in sexual activities of a coerced nature.

My first court date came and went on the docket with my legal representatives arguing that they couldn't possibly defend their client without more time to prepare their case. When it was pointed out by the magistrate that they had already spent three months making the rounds of the various chat shows and had paraded their client from one holo to another, it was argued by my attorneys that it was for precisely that very reason that they required a continuance as such activities had consumed all of the time they had allocated for my defense. It was unfair to their other clients, they argued, to borrow from their time to tend to my own needs, and given that my needs were both continual and substantial, no actual progress had been made on the preparation of my case. It would require at least two months, if not ten weeks, to present an adequate legal defense, and compelled by such logic, the judge granted their request. Not for the last time I wondered if perhaps some money had exchanged hands, or if a favour had been re-deemed. Later evidence presented at the magistrate's own trial for corruption implicated many regional attorneys, but neither Bedlam nor Belfry were ever found guilty of any wrong-doing. In fact, they had not been so much as mentioned, which surprised as many as it didn't.

My confidence in my barristers ebbed and flowed as the trial progressed, and their questions as to my background and banking habits I found to be unnecessarily intrusive. How much money did I consider to be a lot of money, where did I keep my money... if I had stolen the money, where would I hide it -- the usual anticipatory questions that the prosecution would ask, they informed me. I confessed again to my innocence and to the fact that, before my arrest, my take home pay was merely nine hundred debits a week, one third of which went towards the care of my elderly mother and her sister, both of whom lived together in a room over a professional gaming establishment.

They seemed quite satisfied with this response, and even instructed me to practice it in front of a mirror, summoning a tear or two for effect. When they inquired as to the possibility of my mother making an appearance in court for sympathy's sake, the knowledge that she considered her son to be a thief guilty of every charge against him dashed their hopes, although they did inquire as to her physical appearance and to whether or not a convincing duplicate could appear as a substitute if properly briefed on the facts of my youth. As it turned out, they knew an actress whom they used on occasion for just such purposes, and as she currently was a client of theirs, a deal could be struck in which her services would be exchanged for those of their own. As I was uncomfortable with the premise they dismissed it, but they didn't shut the door on it entirely. Should I be convicted, they said, she might come in handy during my sentencing.

As the trial wore on, I noticed that the jury had become more and more disinterested with the specifics of my case, and some of them had even taken to napping in the afternoon. When I alerted my attorneys to this predicament, they informed me that it was all perfectly natural and even to my benefit. "You are assumed innocent until proven guilty, correct?" they asked. When I answered in the affirmative, they responded, "So if they can't remember anything, they have to assume that the facts were presented in your favour. That's the law." Given that I was a neophyte in legal matters, I deferred to their judgement, albeit reluctantly. After all, if matters were not resolved to my satisfaction, it would be I who suffered the consequences of my legal dilemma, not they.

Over time as the media interest in the case appeared to dwindle, my attorneys became more and more concerned with their performance and decided that a shocking revelation was in order. They pressed me to remember any undiscovered secrets in my past, anything at all that could either gain a jury's sympathy or the media's attention. They had been monitoring the ratings of the trial on the holos and were concerned that people had become more interested in another trial which involved a politician and his ways with women of a certain reputation. They were of the opinion that the courtroom proceedings of a corporate robber who had stolen staggering sums of money from widows' and orphans' investment funds should have taken priority in the eyes of the public, but as my scandal lacked sex, apparently it was not enough to keep their interest. "Where's the justice in that?" they asked.

They decided that I wasn't attractive enough for the viewers at home and so embarked upon a campaign to make over my image, complete with a new wardrobe. When I inquired as to its cost, as well as the already substantial legal bills I had already acquired, they merely smiled and assured me that all would be taken care of eventually. They winked as they did so, which caused me no end of concern.

In November, with the sweeps ratings period almost upon them, they decided that something needed to be done again in order to boost the public's interest in the case and so they embarked upon their latest scheme. They were convinced that since celebrity justice was unusual when compared to that reserved for the common man, they set out to arrange a relationship between myself and another of their clients, an attractive actress who was currently under suspicion of murder. As she was a celebrity herself, they believed that I might become a celebrity by association, and they even held out the possibility that I could become a trendsetter in my own fashion. We made appearances together at all of the local film premieres, and were briefly the darlings of every lite-news infotainment program on the telly. We even acquired our own single word moniker -- "Robber-er," which was a play on both my first name and the crimes for which we were accused.

Unfortunately, the relationship fell apart when she attempted to skewer me with a steak knife while we enjoyed a lovely meal at the King Charles Hotel due to my unwanted affection. As time had progressed I began to believe that her feelings for me were genuine, and so attempted to elevate our relationship to the next level. She responded poorly, and as I had faith in the scheme, I was somewhat reluctant to mention it to my attorneys, but a later attempt with an axe forced my hand. In the end, I did enjoy her company as she was an attractive woman and an embezzlement trial was proving itself to be somewhat lonely and monotonous.

Later that year, with endorsement deals lacking and ratings dipping again, my attorneys became concerned when word arose from the street that another scandalous case was almost on the docket. This one involved a schoolteacher and her underage lover, and it was the envy of every barrister for miles around. Bedlam & Belfry had attempted to represent her themselves but were beaten to the punch when a rival of theirs had located her place of refuge and presented his case for her defense instead. They refused to refer to him by name, only calling him "The Mouth," and apparently "The Mouth" had won her over while Bedlam & Belfry were in court with my own trial.

Not for the first time I detected an air of buyer's remorse from my barristers as it appeared that what once looked to be a plum assignment had now turned into their cross to bear. No scandalous revelations about an illicit affair with my secretary were to be found; no outrageous purchases or extravagant homes in which mistresses were well kept were discovered. When I reminded them that I was not married and that I lived on a fixed income, they reminded me to not bother them with such details unless they were relevant.

I suspected then that they were beginning to think that I really was innocent, but was disabused of that notion when Mr. Bedlam inquired as to the possibility that I might possess a split identity, and that my other self might have committed the crimes of which I stood accused. I was fairly certain that I didn't, but how could one be entirely sure? Thus encouraged, he began to explore the possibilities of an insanity defense.

All of Bedlam & Belfry's efforts as my legal representatives were rendered moot when my former employer, Mr. Landry, turned up alive and well and living the good life on Mars. He had absconded with the money and my secretary, who had manufactured the evidence against me over an extended period of time. They had been seeing one another for over a year, and the idea of pinning their crimes on my head was cemented the day that I refused to allow Ms. Livingston to depart early so that she could travel home to feed her cat.

In reality, the two had planned a weekend getaway to Paris, and it was my steadfastness that caused them to miss their appointment. With revenge thus sewn in their hearts, they targeted me as the patsy for their devious plans and were caught when Mr. Landry attempted to buy a space worthy vessel for the next leg of their journey and a simple customs inspection revealed a quantity of undeclared items in the hold. After a DNA analysis revealed his true identity, the jig was up.

With the charges dropped, my attorneys publicly professed that they believed in my innocence all along, but privately their demeanour betrayed their true convictions. They were unable to represent Mr. Landry or Ms. Livingston due to my prior defense, and with a sizable quantity of legal bills accumulated throughout the course of my trial, they were out a substantial investment themselves. As part of our deal they had acquired the film rights for my story, but as I proved to be both innocent and not terribly interesting, such assets were largely worthless. They had maintained their presence in the public eye, and there was something to be said for that, but secretly they resented the opportunity that I had cost them with the schoolteacher, and their loss of that case to "The Mouth" still stuck in their craw.

In the final tally they considered my defense to be a loss, as they would have been on the holos with some other defendant anyway had I not engaged their services. They were even robbed of the credit of my dismissal, as it was not brought about by a jury verdict. With my freedom before me, I was sent on my way from their offices with monies owing and the smell of tuna all around me. In retrospect, I considered the experience to be a very nerve-wracking one, with its only redeeming quality that of its ending.

Since that time, people have asked me if I would recommend the services of Bedlam & Belfry to anyone in need of them. I'm afraid to answer in the affirmative, as the mere mention of my name as a referral would probably scuttle any hopes that such an individual might have to acquire their services. They did take me places that I never would have gone without them, and I did get to meet people whom I am certain I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet, but the whole affair did take its toll upon my health, which I am even now attempting to restore.

In the end, I am satisfied with the quality of the defense that they presented on my behalf. They employed every skill at their disposal, and were even willing to bend the law to ensure my freedom. It cannot be said that they were hesitant in any way, and when you consider their belief in my guilt, they truly did all that a client could expect of his attorneys. It is to my disappointment that they were not rewarded with a clear acquittal, but given the consequences had the jury not found in my favour, I am not dissatisfied that Mr. Landry and Ms. Livingston were located before they were forced to deliberate as to my guilt or innocence. I only wish that my attorneys could have been presented with the just rewards for their labours instead of missing the glory that goes with manipulating the law to allow a guilty man to go free.

Of course, in my situation, they would actually have been liberating an innocent person, but from their perspective I was guilty, and in the end, it's really the thought that counts, isn't it?


Have you ever needed a lawyer? If that's the case, then Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law are the ones for you!

Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law: The 1st Dozen features the first twelve adventures of the morally challenged barristers as originally seen in Bedlam & Belfry, Intergalactic Attorneys at Law Vols. 1-4. Their opponents range from God above to the Devil himself, and their clients include the rich, the very rich, and the filthy rich!

Bedlam & Belfry are always open for business if the money is good, so if you're of a mind to become rich yourself, then with the proper lawsuit, they're your men!

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Bedlam & Belfry are back in a second dozen of stories that test the bounds of legality, morality, and sanity! Travel with them to far off planets, dingy London bars, and dignified courtrooms to watch them bring the law down to their level! See them enter (and exit) rehab, defend celebrity litigants, and employ dubious methods to win the day! Witness their ratings explode, their clients' ascent into infamy, and their own audacity!

Plus! A return visit from the Devil! A surprise appearance by Merlin the Magician! And other notable personages not yet famous in our time! Bedlam & Belfry return to the legal scene with twelve more tales of legal chicanery! To miss it would be criminal!

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Bedlam & Belfry are back -- again!

This time around the solicitors from 32 London Lane face conspiracies, scandals, and online dating apps as they ply their trade in the New London legal arena. Follow them from lower to higher court as they take on stakes that range from life and death to beyond!

Also! A flashback to their early days! A hint of romance! Questionable moral judgement and sizable monetary rewards! All the legal nonsense that fits between two covers, and it can be yours today! Don't delay!

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