In the Circuit Court of Cook C6unty, there was a constant ebb and flow of defendants accused of arson, rape, drug dealing, murder, and a variety of other illegal and unsavory activities. In the course of a month, Judge Tyler Stanford dealt with at least half a dozen murder cases. The majority never went to trial since the attorneys for the defendant would offer to plea bargain, and because the court calendars and prisons were so overcrowded, the State would usually agree. The two sides would then strike a deal and go to Judge Stanford for his approval. The case of Hal Baker was an exception. Hal Baker was a man with good intentions and bad luck. When he was fifteen, his older brotherhad talked him into helping him rob a grocery store. Hal had tried to dissuade him, and when he couldn't, he went along with him. Hal was caught, and his brother escaped. Two years later, when Hal Baker got out of reform school, he was determined never to get in trouble with 195 the law again. One month later, he accompanied a friend to a jewelry store. ' want to pick out a ring for my, girlfriend.' Once inside the store, his friend pulled out a gun and yelled, ', is a holdup!' . In the ensuing excitement, a clerk was shot to death. Hal Baker was caught and arrested for armed robbery. His friend escaped. While Baker was in prison, Helen Gowan, a social worker who had read about his case and felt sorry for him, went to visit him. It was love at first sight, and when Baker was released from prison, he and Helen were married. Over the next eight years, they had four lovely children. Hal Baker adored his family. Because of his prison record, he had a difficult time finding jobs, and to support his family he reluctantly went to work for his brother, carrying out various-acts of arson, robbery and assault.

Unfortunately for Baker, he was caught flagrante delicto in the commission of a burglary. He was arrested, held in jail, and tried in Judge Tyler Stanford's court.- It was time for sentencing. Baker was a second offender with a bad juvenile record, and it was such a clear-cut case that the assistant district attorneys were making bets on how many years Judge Stanford would give Baker. ''ll throw the book at him!" one of them said. ''ll bet he gives him twenty 196 years. Stanford's not called the Hanging Judge for nothing.' Hal Baker, who felt deep in his heart that he was innocent, was acting as his own attorney. He stood before the bench, dressed in his best suit, and said, ' Honor, I know I made a mistake, but we're all human, aren't we? I have a wonderful wife and four children. I wish you could meet them, Your Honor - they're great. What I did, I did for them.' Tyler Stanford sat on the bench, listening, his face impassive. He was waiting for Hal Baker to finish so he could pass sentence. Does thisfool-really think he's going to get off with that stupid sob story? Hal Baker was finishing, '... and so you see, Your Honor, even though I did the wrong thing, I did it for the right reason: family. I don't have to tell you how important that is. If I go to prison, my wife and children will '. I know I made a mistake, but I'm willing to make up for it. I'll do. anything you want me to do, Your Honor ...' And that was the phrase that caught Tyler Stanford's attention. He looked at the defendant before him with a new interest. ' you want me to do.' Tyler suddenly had the same instinct he had had about Dmitri Kaminsky. Here was a man who might be very useful one day. To the prosecutor's utter astonishment, Tyler said, "Mr. Baker, there are extenuating circumstances in this case. Because of them and because of your family, I 197 am going to put you on probation for five years. I will expect you to perform six hundred hours of public service. Come into my chambers, and we will discuss -it.' In the privacy of his chambers, Tyler said, ' know, I could still send you to prison for a long, long time.' Hal Baker turned pale. ', Your. Honor! You said ...' Tyler leaned forward. ' you know the most i D mpressive thing about yout Hal Baker sat there, trying to think what was impressive about himself. ', Your Honor." feelings about your family,' Tyler said piously. ' really admire that.' Hal Baker brightened. ' you, sir. They're the most important thing in- the world to me. I ' you wouldn't want to lose them, would you? If I sent you to prison, your Ichildren would grow up without you; your wife would probably find another man. Do you see what I'm getting all Hal Baker was baffled. ' ... no, Your Honor. Not exactly."'m saving your family for you, Baker. I would think you'd be grateful.' Hal Baker said fervently, ', I am, Your Honor! I can't tell you how grateful I am."

"Perhaps you can prove it to me in the future. I may be calling on you to do some little errands for ine.' 198 '! '. I'm placing you on probation, and if I should find anything in your behavior that displeases me ..." just tell me what you want,' Baker begged.

"I'll let you know when the time comes. Meanwhile, this will be strictly confidential between the two of us.' Hal Baker put his hand over his heart. ' would die before I'd tell anyone."'re right,' Tyler assured him. It was a short time after that when Tyler received the phone call from Dmitri Kaminsky. ' father just called his attorney.

He's meeting him in Boston on Monday to change his will.' Tyler knew that he had to see that will. It was time to call Hal Baker. '... the name of the firm is Renquist, Renquist, & Fitzgerald. Make a copy of the will and bring it to me." problem. I'll take care of it, Your Honor.' Twelve hours, later, Tyler had a copy of the will in his hands.

He read it and was filled with a sense of elation. He and Woody and Kendall were the sole heirs. And on Monday Father is planning to change the will. The bastard is going to take it away from just Tyler thought bitterly. After all we've gone through.. , those billions belong to us.

He's made us earn them! There was only one way to stop him. 199 When Dmitri's second telephone call came, Tyler said, 1 want you to kill him.

Tonight.' There was a long silence. ' if I'm caught .. ''t get caught. You'll be at sea. A lot of things can happen there." right.

When it's over ... T ' money and a plane ticket to Australia will be waiting for you.' And then later, the last wonderful phone call. ' did it. It was easy."! No! No! I want to hear the details. Tell me everything. Don't leave anything out ...' And as Tyler listened, he could visualize the scene unfolding before his eyes. ' were in a bad storm on our way to Corsica. He called and asked me to come to his cabin and give him a massage .. Tyler found himself gripping the phone. '.

Go on ...' Dmitri had fought to keep his balance against the wild pitching of the yacht as he headed for Harry Stanford's stateroom. He knocked at the cabin door and, after a, moment, he heard Stanford's voice. ' in!' Stanford yelled. He was stretched out on the massage table. ''s my lower back."'ll take care of it. Just relax, Mr. Stanford.' Dmitri went over to the massage table and spread oil on Stanford's back. His strong fingers went to work, 200 skillfully kneading the tight muscles. He could feel Stanford begin to relax. ' feels good.' Stanford sighed. ' you.' The massage lasted an hour, and when Dmitri was through, Stanford was almost asleep. ''m going to run a warm bath for you,' Dmitri said. He went into the bathroom, stumbling with the motion of the ship. He turned on the warm seawater tap in the black onyx tub and returned to the bedroom. Stanford was still lying on the table, his eyes closed. '. Stanford .. Stanford opened his eyes. ' bath is ready." don't think I need'.. ' will really make sure you get a good night's sleep.' He helped Stanford off the table and steered him toward the bathroom. Dmitri watched Harry Stanford lower himself into, the tub. Stanford looke&up into Dmitri's cold eyes, and in that instant, his instinct told him what was aboutto happen. '!' he cried. He started to get up. Dmitn put his huge hands on top of Harry. Stanford's head and pushed him under the water.

Stanford struggled violently, trying to come up for air, but he was no match for the giant. Dmitri held him under while the seawater got into his victim's lungs, and finally all movement stopped. He stood there, 201 breathing hard, then staggered into the other room. Dmitri went over to the desk, fighting the rolling motion of the ship, picked up some papers and slid open the glass door to the outside veranda, letting in the howling wind. He scattered some of the papers OPI the veranda and threw some overboard. Satisfied, he returned to the bathroom once more and pulled Stanford's body out of the tub. He dressed him in his pajamas, robe and slippers, and carried the body out onto the veranda.

Dmitri stood at the railing a moment, then heaved the body overboard. He counted to five seconds, then picked up the telephone and shouted, ' overboard!' Listening to Dmitri recount the story of the murder, Tyler felt a sexual thrill. He could taste the seawater filling his father's lungs and feel the gasping for breath, the terror. And then nothingness.

It's over, Tyler thought. Then he corrected himself. No. The game is just beginning. It's time to play the queen. Copyright 2016 - 2023