THE 4TH AMENDMENT by John Bowers

“The judge will see you now.”

Chief Carpenter rose from his chair and smiled at the secretary.

“Thanks, Edna.”

He knocked once on the judge’s door and entered the chambers. The chambers were bright with morning sun streaming through a tall window. Judge Martin was barely thirty-five, but his hair had already turned a light grey. Wearing a business suit but not a robe, he was seated at the desk with pen in hand, a legal document before him. He leaned back with a curious expression as Carpenter entered.

“Morning, your Honor.”

“Chief. What can I do for you?” Martin waved to a chair and Carpenter sat down.

“I need a warrant.” Carpenter held up the paperwork.

“Does it have anything to do with the Braxton case?”

Carpenter nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Judge Martin’s expression darkened.

“I think I just sent one of your detectives packing an hour ago. He was after the same thing.”

“That’s right, your Honor. That’s why I’m here. I’m asking you to reconsider.”

Martin grimaced and dropped his pen onto the desk.

“Have you got anything new?”

“Not until we conduct a search.”

“Then the answer is the same. You don’t have enough to apply for the warrant.”

“I beg to differ, your Honor. We have more than enough probable cause for a warrant. Braxton is dirty, and the proof is in his shop. We just need to get in there to find it.”

“You still need probable cause.”

Carpenter frowned.

“Thanks for the law lesson. We have probable cause. It’s all right here.” Carpenter held up the warrant application again.

Judge Martin sighed.

“Your surveillance proves nothing. A beer party late at night, maybe a poker game. That’s likely all it was.”

“Facial rec ID’d some of those men, your Honor. Known felons, a couple with Mob ties.”

“Proves nothing. I’m sorry. Is there anything else?”

Carpenter stared at the judge in mounting frustration.

“You’ve always been stingy with warrants, your Honor, but–”

“I believe in the Fourth Amendment. As should you.”

“I do, of course, or I wouldn’t be asking for a warrant.” Carpenter leaned forward. “Look, your Honor, if Braxton is innocent, the search will only clear him. What’s the harm in that?”

“Nothing. But the Fourth clearly states that a search must be reasonable, with probable cause.”

Carpenter held up the warrant again. “I believe I have probable cause right here.”

“And I disagree. Find yourself another judge.”

Carpenter bit his tongue. They both knew that Martin was the only judge in town.

Martin cast him an impatient scowl.

“I’m really quite busy, Chief. If there was nothing else…?”

Carpenter stood up and tucked the warrant application into his pocket. He drew out another envelope and dropped it onto the judge’s desk.

“Maybe this will help.”

“What is it?”

Curious, Judge Martin opened the envelope. His eyes widened as the photos spilled out. Carpenter said nothing as Martin flipped through them, his face burning red. He looked up.

“What are these?”

“I think they’re obvious, sir. Don’t you?”

“Are you suggesting–”

“Does that car look familiar? Looks just like yours.”

“Well, it isn’t mine. Where did you get these?”

“Surveillance camera, 4th Street Bridge.”

Martin paged through the pictures again. A late-model car, late at night, parked under a bridge. The driver’s face indistinct. An approaching woman in spiked heels and fishnet stockings. Leaning into the car. Kissing the driver. Crawling into the car. Crawling out of the car ten minutes later, by the timestamp.

Martin shoved them back across the desk.

“This is going to cost you, Chief. If this is an allegation–”

Carpenter dropped one more photo onto the desk. A blowup of a license plate. He never said a word. Martin swallowed hard.

“What do you want?”

“I want this warrant signed. I want you to remain on the bench for at least another thirty years. And from this day forward, I want your signature upon request. I swear I won’t abuse the process, but I can’t fight crime with a reluctant judge who won’t cooperate with my department.”

“And in return?”

“The day you retire–thirty years from now–these will become kindling in my fireplace.”

Carpenter swept up the pictures and stuffed them back into the envelope.

“Do we have a deal?”

Red-faced, Judge Martin stared at him only a moment…then reached for his pen.

John Bowers is a semi-retired software programmer and the best-selling author of the Fighter Queen saga, the Starport series, and the Nick Walker: United Federation Marshal series. His books are available on Amazon at:

Copyright © 2020 John Bowers. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.