The courthouse was busy today. It was traveling judge week in Willoughby which meant party time for the locals. In a post blackout world, you looked for entertainment where you could get it, and although there were never any truly serious crimes in Willoughby, you could always count on some fun when the judge came to town.
"Guilty as charged. I sentence you to community service helping to create a town farm to supply vegetables for the new market." Grateful that he hadn't been thrown in jail for 'borrowing' supplies from a local merchant to fix up an abandoned shack for his family, the farmer nodded his head and moved to the back of the room.
Folks were enjoying this judge. Nobody had known what to expect when Frank Blanchard had unexpectedly shown up saying that he would be handling cases today. Why would the President of Texas do something so clearly beneath the workings of his office? What they were being treated to was a reasonable person who was passing sentences that were helping them rebuild and grow their town.
"Sebastian Monroe, you are called to the stand." Bass grimaced and stood up as he made his way to the front ignoring the murmurs of the people staring at the former General. Nobody knew he was here today so there were no supportive words of encouragement as he moved to stand in front of Blanchard.
Frank Blanchard grinned down at Bass from behind the judge's desk. Bass knew he wasn't going to like whatever was coming.
"Sebastian Monroe, you are charged with rabble rousing and disturbing the peace after 11 p.m. on a weeknight. How do you plead?"
"Seriously, Frank? You know I was helping Betty remove drunks from her bar."
"So you plead guilty?"
"If trying to help someone keep her property from being destroyed, then fuck it. I guess I'm guilty."
Bass was getting angrier by the minute with this trumped up charge. When Rangers had shown up at his doorway the morning after this incident, he honestly thought Miles had sent them as a joke. Apparently, the joke was on him. Frank Blanchard wanted something from him, and he was about to find out what it was.
"Then I find you guilty as charged and sentence you to community service. To atone for your crime against the citizens of Willoughby, you will help beautify the town square by painting a tasteful mural promoting community values."
Laughter immediately erupted behind him as the townspeople started discussing the opportunity to watch a humiliated Sebastian Monroe painting stick figures on the side of a wall. Bass looked at Blanchard in disbelief. Surely, he had heard that incorrectly.
The banging of the gavel and Frank Blanchard's booming voice commanding everyone to settle down brought some order back in the room. Looking back at Bass, the rest of the sentence was meted out.
"You are to attend art school for a period of no less than six months to build the skills necessary to carry out the rest of your sentence. A spot has been reserved for you in Miss Pansy Pettigrew's School of Culture and Etiquette in Austin. Class starts next week. Court is adjourned for the day."
Fists clenched, Bass glared at Frank with a look that had others scrambling to get out of his way as he stalked out of the courtroom. Had that been a sparkle in Frank's eyes? How the hell did he even know Bass could draw, let alone paint something as big as a mural? It was a secret Bass had never told anyone. When the fighting was intense and he needed to forget, he hadn't always done it with a bottle or a warm body. Miles always thought Bass would turn down whiskey to get laid or vice versa…and that did happen…but there were times when Bass needed something else.
Some people wrote in a journal; Bass drew in one. Scrounging around on their travels, Bass had managed to accumulate an impressive array of water colors and art pencils. Always kept tucked deep in his pack, Bass would sneak away from camp or wait until everyone was asleep during his watch, and then pull out his treasured pencils, paints and brushes to help put down on paper the memories of happier times. His was a natural gift, and a private one. Art let him escape the tragedies and horrors that life had thrown at him early on and again later when General Monroe was released on the world. It was the one thing that had kept him grounded enough to eventually start to find his way back to a little bit of humanity. There was no way Frank Blanchard could have known that.
Author's Note: A huge thank you to Lemon Supreme for reviewing this story, offering constructive advice, and helping an inexperienced writer bring emotional weight to a couple of key scenes. I couldn't figure out what was missing, but she knew right away, and this story is better for it.