After Ernie finished eating Niles had him hand him the wrappers.
“How much time am I lookin’ at?” Ernie said.
“I don’t know?’ Niles said. “I’ll be straight up with you Ernie because I don’t think people have been straight up with you very often. The mayor may decide to send this to the county courts and that’s because of the severity. I can recommend it stay local. Locally, by statute, we can only impose three days. Right now me and the mayor and town council are at odds, so don’t look for the mayor to grant me or you any favors.”
“So what am I lookin’ at,” Ernie said.
“The soft side of a year,” Niles said. “and at least 30 days.”
“What do you think I should do?” Ernie said.
“First of all tell me what happened in the office with Ms. La Rue,” Niles said.
“First of all,” Ernie said, “I know I ain’t her type. Ain’t no way I’m gonna attract a woman with her looks. But she’s teasing me all the way. She bends over the desk so’s I see down the front. She even lays ‘em against the desk to squash ‘em together. And all the time lookin’ up at me to sees if I’m lookin’ on.”
“Did she say anything?” Niles said.
“She said in the old days they used to work this kind of stuff out in trade,” Ernie said.
Niles rubbed his forehead and smiled in disbelief. “How was that supposed to work. I got to hand it to you, Ernie, I looked into your eyes and thought you’d be honest with me.”
“Look, Chief,” Ernie said, “I got every reason on earth to lie, but no reason to you. You’ve done nothin’ but treat me good. I got a meal, you got ice for my hand, aspirin, pull the curtain if I gotta go, and you even got me rings instead of fries. No, sir, I ain’t gonna lie to you.”
“Well, Ernie,” Niles said, “it doesn’t make any difference what you say. It’s he said, she said and a mayor or judge will take your actions toward me as an awareness of guilt.”
“So, now, I’ll have a sexual assault on my record?” Ernie said.
“Afraid so,” Niles said. “Do you want me to get a lawyer for you?”
“It’s free isn’t it?” Ernie said.
“If you don’t have the money it is,” Niles said.
“Well, I do have the $250 dollars I saved from not paying all the fine,” Ernie said.
“What!” Niles said incredulously.
“Yeah,” Niles said. “She told me to just pay the 250 and she would talk it over with you.’ Ernie reached into his pocket. “I got a receipt for 250, that’s all I paid. She said I could pay her the rest for her services. Said she had you wrapped around her little finger. Said she would tell you all I had was 250 and she knew me personally and vouch for me.”
Ernie handed the receipt through the bars. Niles. Niles looked it over.
“I’ll make a copy and give it back to you,” Niles said. “One thing I don’t get, why did she come running over to the restaurant claiming you made advances?”
“I had second thoughts,” Ernie said. “She said a deal is a deal. I said I didn’t want to mess around with her and I wanted my money back, that I’d pay you directly. I told her I wouldn’t say anything about what she was gonna do. She got furious, grabbed her blouse, rippin’ some buttons off, and messed up her hair. Then she takes off.”
Niles scanned the receipt into the computer. He handed it back to Ernie. “Not a word about this; only if you get a lawyer.”
“Is this a get out of jail pass?” Ernie said.
“Not exactly,” Niles said. “You owe me some time. You tried to take my head off. So here’s the deal; nobody saw you throw a punch at me. By the time Junior, Anita, and Lucinda arrived, you were being cuffed. So I’m going to call it disorderly conduct. That’s three days, local, or I could take you to Stockbridge.”
“Can I stay here?” Ernie said.
“Yeah,” Niles said. “I’ll get the mayor down here for sentencing. No lawyers, no witnesses, just me, you, and the mayor.”
“Okay,” Ernie said. “But what about the other stuff. Trust me, Ernie, I will need it in the future. Let’s just call it part of an ongoing investigation, but I need for you to say nothing about it. Can I trust you.”
“I went and removed the chair and took it to the landfill,” Ernie said.