How America Became Safe for Monsters, Faries, Ghouls, and Everything Else

Boston, Massachusetts, 17 March, 1923, 1:30 AM

It had been an unseasonably warm St. Patrick's day, with temperatures reaching the mid-70s during the day. This naturally drove even more people into the hidden speakeasies to celebrate with a drink. For three friends named Luke Georges, Samuel Johnson, and Michael Maxwell, the drinking carried on long into the night. The three were good and hammered by the time they finally stumbled out of the bar, arms around each others shoulders, laughing raucously. Though the temperature had dropped, they were too warmed by booze to care.

They staggered down dark streets, the distant street lamps glowing dimly through a mild fog. It was a surprise that any of them were even able to spot the short man walking brusquely by himself, head down and hands in his pockets. But Luke did spot him and pointed and shouted. “Hey! It's a leprechaun!”

The walking man, little more than a shadow through the fog, missed a step and stumbled. He turned toward the group of men and took a step toward them, then stopped, and began walking off again. “Hey, come back leprechaun!” Samuel shouted, drawing laughs from his friends. “We want your pot of gold!” More laughs.

It the man had just kept walking, maybe nothing would have come of it. But his name was Ian McCormick and he had stopped growing in the 5th grade. “Hey, you wankers! Shut up!” His voice had a comically high pitch and a bog standard Irish accent.

The three men froze for a minute, then looked at each other. A dark expression crossed Michael's face. “Did he just call us wankers?”

“What's a wanker?” Luke asked.

“I dunno,” Michael said. “But I don't like it!”

“Let's get him!” Samuel yelled. The other two screamed their assent and started toward the figure.

Ian McCormick froze for a moment, not realizing the seriousness of the situation he was in. It took him a moment to realize that the large, shouting men were running right toward him. If he hadn't been such a staunch Prohibitionist, he might have considered that the men were stinking drunk. But those few seconds of hesitation cost him.

He turned and sped off down the street, but the larger men with the longer legs easily caught up to him despite their inebriation. Michael grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and lifted him from the street. Ian flailed his arms and legs, which was another potential mistake. If he'd gone limp, they might have let him go. But his foot struck Michael in the jaw, causing the big man to drop him.

Ian landed in a heap, the wind knocked out of his lungs. Luke jumped on him and punched him in the face. “Huh! You like that!” Luke screamed as he grabbed the little man's hair and held him down. “You fuckin' mick!”

“Let me go!” Ian squealed, trying to shield his face with his arms. Samuel grabbed his arms and pulled them away, holding them down and out of the way.

“You think you're real funny, huh?” Michael asked, kicking him in the side of the head. “You fuckin' gonna give us your pot of gold now, you piece of shit?”

“I'm not a leprechaun!” Ian wailed. “Please, let me go, I didn't mean nothin'.”

Luke punched him in the stomach, driving all the wind out of him. “You think we're stupid, you filthy midget mick?” He drove another punch into his stomach. “You fuckin' makin' fun of us? Huh? Who do you think the fuckin' wanker is now, huh?”

“I'm sorry,” Ian managed to choke out. “I was just – ” But Michael kicked him again. The three men took turns pounding on him, Ian screams and cries for help cut off by continued blows. They kept at it for nearly a full three minutes, until the man finally ceased moving or making any noise. The only sound emerging was the ragged, wet sucking sound as Ian pulled in shallow breaths.

Eventually, Michael and Samuel stopped, but Luke kept swinging. “Fuck you, mick midget piece of shit,” he shouted with a slurred voice, his fists smashing into Ian's swollen face.

“Hey, Luke, lay off,” Michael said. “We done enough, don't you think?”

Luke hit Ian again. “Fuck this mick,” Luke said. “He ain't shit, but he's trying to talk terrible about us.”

“Hey, he ain't moving,” Samuel said. “I think he's had enough.” But Luke didn't listen to him. He just kept swinging and punching. Samuel grabbed Luke's shoulder and tried to pull him away, but Luke just shrugged him off and continued to punch.

Michael and Samuel exchanged concerned glances, but they just stepped back and watched the beating go on. “You gonna kill him Luke?” Michael finally asked.

Before Luke could answer, the sound of a police siren sounded in the distance. Luke pulled his arm back to swing again, but Michael grabbed it. “We gotta go!” he said.

“Let go of me!” Luke shouted, but Samuel grabbed him too.

“Come on, we gotta go!” Samuel said. “The bulls are comin'.” The two of them managed to pull Luke up and off of Ian, though he gave one final kick to the man for good measure. With that blow, he seemed to snap out of it. He looked down at the crumpled figure of Ian McCormick and went pale as a sheet.

“Oh cripes,” he muttered.

“Come on!” Samuel said, yanking his arm and pulling him away from the scene. Michael had already taken off and was taking a stumbling run down the street. Luke looked wide-eyed at the body, not moving or even appearing to be alive, and rushed after him.

Boston, Massachusetts, 24 March, 1923, 6:19 PM

The three friends sat in a prison cell, faces down. None could bear to look at the other, though Michael and Samuel at least exchanged guilty glances from time to time. Neither looked at Luke and both did their best to keep as far away as they could in the cramped cell.

The police had nabbed Michael first. A witness, the person who'd called in the beating to the police in the first place, had gotten a good look at him, even in the dim fog-obscured light of the streetlamps. After asking around, they'd come to his work and arrested him. They searched his apartment and found the clothes he'd been wearing that night, still covered in the blood of Ian McCormick.

He'd kept quiet for a few hours, until they brought in the doctor to describe the injuries. “Six broken ribs, a punctured lung, a ruptured spleen, two cracked vertebrae, a fractured skull, a broken nose, six missing teeth, a broken orbital bone, a broken jaw,” the doctor said in a very serious tone.

“But he's alive, right?” Michael asked in a quiet, desperate voice. “We didn't kill him?”

“You're damn lucky he's alive,” the detective said. “You damn near killed this kid, but we can't charge ya mooks with homicide, cause he's still alive. God forgive me, but I almost wish he had been killed, just so I could see the you fry in the chair.” The detective spit on the floor.

Michael hung his head, but let out a long, slow sigh. “We didn't mean to do him that bad,” he said softly. “It just got outta hand.”

The detective shook his head. “And who's we?” he asked. “We know you weren't by your lonesome. So who else was it, huh?”

“They're my friends,” Michael offered weakly. “I don't wanna rat on 'em.”

The detective slammed his palms down on the table, startling Michael and bringing his face up. “You don't wanna rat on 'em?” the detective asked. “You and your friends are rats! You nearly killed that boy! Heck, who knows, he might still die, ain't that right doc?”

The doctor nodded in a slow, practiced seriousness. “He's not out of the woods yet. He had bleeding in his brain. That's a very deadly injury.”

Michael lowered his head into his hands and stayed quiet for several minutes. The detective just looked at him, then finally said, “You turn your friends in, face it together, plead guilty. Judge might go lenient on you. At least tell us who was with you, it might make you seem remorseful at least. Keep you from goin' away for ten to twenty.”

Finally Michael looked up. “Alright, alright. It was my buddies, Luke Georges and Samuel Maxwell. They were the other two. Luke was the one who did the most. He just kept hitting him, over and over, even after Sam and I tried to get him to stop.”

The detective laid a hand on Michael's shoulder. Michael looked up and was surprised to find the detective's face had softened. “You did good, son. So, tell me where those two live, will you?”

Two hours later, the three of them were sitting in the same cell. None had spoken to the other yet. What could they say to each other? They all knew what they'd done and what the consequences were. They could go to jail for a long time. Hard labor, hard time, and if Ian McCormick died, well, that was even worse. All three of them were worried about getting the electric chair.

“You boys are the Leprechaun Three?” a voice asked. All three of them looked up to see a dapper man with close-cropped hair in an expensive, gray three-piece suit. He held a briefcase and wore an antique pair of pince-nez. The three finally looked at each other in confusion. They hadn't heard the term before. The man smiled. “Come on, Leprechaun Three, the three men who found a leprechaun and beat him up for his gold.”

The three exchanged further uneasy looks. Finally, Samuel cleared his throat. “Um, if you mean are we the guys who beat up that Irish kid, then yeah.”

The man laughed. “Kid?” He shook his head. “That wasn't a kid, boys. That was a man. A little man, for sure, but a man nonetheless. He's a dwarf. A midget, boys. You know, like they got in Barnum's shows. But no, that's not what you boys thought, was it?”

“I thought he was a dirty Irish mick,” Luke spat. Samuel and Michael both gave their friend an exasperated look.

The man continued to smile, but it shrank. “Now now, boys, that's not what we want to hear. A lotta Irish live here in Boston, you know. A lot of the police are Irish too. You go around saying things like that, there's no way a jury doesn't convict you.”

“Who are you?” Michael finally asked.

The man's smile widened again. “Glad you asked, young man.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small paper card. He passed it through the bars and Michael took it. It was simple, in black and white, and the man read it out to them as Michael looked. “Arnold J. Klapiss, attorney at law. I'm here to offer you boys my services.”

“Who sent you?” Michael asked. He narrowed his eyes at the man.

Klapiss smiled even wider. “Why, Mr. Maxwell, it was your parents who retained my services. They heard about the unfortunate incident and your involvement in it and, of course, they hired me. I am, of course, the best.”

Samuel shook his head. “I don't know why you're bothering,” he said. “They already nabbed us. They got witnesses who seen us. The kid we hurt is still alive, too. And he saw us straight. He'll identify us, for sure.”

Klapiss shook his head. “Poor Mr. McCormick is in a coma from which he may never awake,” he said. “He can't identify you if he's not awake. Besides, that's not how I'm going to defend you.”

Luke looked up hopefully. “How? How are you going to get us out of this?”

Klapiss raised a finger to his lips. “We'll discuss that all in due time. But for now, we need to get you boys out of that cell. Just stay calm, and don't talk to the police any more, not without me there at least.”

Massachusetts Superior Court, Boston, 13 April, 1923, 9:30 AM

The judge, an old, fat man with a pinched face, glared down at the three defendants from his bench. The sixteen jurors, a combination of men and women, a good deal of them Irish, all looked at the men with a combination of anger, pity, and disgust. Luke, Michael, and Samuel all sat hunched over in their chairs, staring at the table or their shoes.

The trial had become a media frenzy. The story of the innocent dwarf who had been brutally beaten by three drunks had fueled Prohibition sentiment across the country. And the rumors that the attack had been motivated by anti-Irish hatred had only made it worse. Some people insisted the three were scapegoats, but for every person that thought they were innocent, a dozen had already declared them guilty.

“Don't worry, boys, I'll take care of everything,” Klapiss had assured them.

Indeed, when the judge demanded the entry of their plea, Klapiss stood, adjusted his tie, and boldly announced, “My clients declare themselves not guilty by reason of insanity.”

A murmur went through the crowed court room which gradually rose in volume until it reached a crescendo. The whispers turned to loud speaking as people struggled to be heard over their neighbors, then to shouting and yelling as people screamed their defiance and disbelief of the lawyer's declaration. The judge pounded his gavel, the boys tried to shrink further into their chairs, and Klapiss smugly adjusted his jacket.

Finally, the insistent hammering and shouted reprimands of the judge claimed quiet in the courtroom. The prosecution for the state, of course, had not reacted with nearly the shock of the reporters. They had been informed in advance that the insanity plea would be entered into court, as was required by law. They'd prepared their counter arguments and own expert testimony to prove that the three were quite sane when they attacked poor Ian McCormick.

Once things had calmed, the judge set the trial underway. The prosecuting lawyer, a slick young man named Edward Loomis, rose from his seat and made a circuit of the jury, not looking at them, but instead walking with his head down and hands clasped behind his back. When he reached the end of the jury stand, he turned to them.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are here today to seek justice for a poor, unfortunate young man. A man who, by the misfortune of birth, was destined to grow no taller than a grade schooler. A young man who, despite his defect, had managed to make a good, honest life for himself by working long hours at a factory. A young man who came to this great country of the United States of America seeking freedom from oppression and hatred. A young man who was brutally assaulted, through no provocation, and left at the brink of death in a cold street. A young man who, through only the providence of God, has managed to struggle through his injuries and remain alive.

“Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, a crime most heinous was committed against young, innocent Ian McCormick that day. A vicious and unthinkable crime done by vicious and unthinkable men. A plea of insanity is entered by the defendants in this case. They admit that they have committed the crime! They do not try to hide their actions, because the facts are all evident! They are simply making one, last desperate grasp at freedom.

“But today, I will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that these men are not insane now and were not insane when they attacked poor Ian McCormick. They acted with cold malice which, while undoubtedly evil, is within the domain of sane thinking men.”

The prosecution's first witness was little Ian McCormick himself. Though it had almost a month since the assault, he was still in bad shape. His neck was in a brace and he had bandaged wrapped around his head, arms, and chest. His face was still spotted with healing bruises. He arrived in a wheelchair and had an older woman, reported by the media to be his frail old mother (though there was no family resemblance and she was not frail by any means), help him onto the stand.

After being sworn in, the prosecutor began with the questions. “Do you see the men who attacked you in this court room?” Loomis asked.

“I do,” Ian said in a weak, scratchy voice. He had dark bags under his eyes and looked tired. “They're those three there.” He lifted an arm with an exaggerated grimace and pointed as Samuel, Michael, and Luke.

“And, Mr. McCormick, can you please tell us what you were doing the night before the attack?”

“Objection,” Klapiss said nonchalantly. “Irrelevance.” The judge turned harshly to Kalpiss and stared, as if waiting for more. Klapiss finally rolled his eyes and sighed. “It doesn't matter what Mr. McCormick was doing prior to the assault.”

The judge turned back to Loomis, who raised a hand and said apologetically, “I withdraw the question.” He turned back to Ian. “Mr. McCormick, can you please tell us the events directly leading up to the assault, beginning with your first interactions with the men you identified as the attackers?” Loomis shot a glance at Klapiss, who simply smiled and crossed his arms.

“Of course,” Ian said slowly. “I was walkin' home. The night was foggy and I couldn't see too well, when I heard someone yellin' at me. I stopped to listen, thinkin' it might be someone in trouble, but then I heard they was shoutin' about a leprechaun. Shoutin' at me, callin' me a leprechaun and tellin' me ta lead 'em to my pot o' gold.”

Loomis nodded. “And Mr. McCormick, how did that make you feel?”

“Objection,” Klapiss spoke once again. “Irrelevance.” This time, he did not wait for the judge. “It doesn't matter how Mr. McCormick felt about the insulting words, merely that they were said.”

This time, Loomis pushed on, “Mr. McCormick's emotional state is vitally important in establishing how the attack proceeded.”

“Overruled,” the judge declared.

“I except on the grounds that we've already agreed the attack proceeded,” Klapiss said with a sigh. “The only emotional states that are relevant are the insane, unstable ones of my clients.”

Despite the insinuation, both Loomis and the judge let Klapiss's words go unchallenged. Loomis repeated the question, and Ian said, “Well, it made me quite angry. You don't know how it's been, havin' to grow up Irish and a dwarf. People have been payin' me no respect my entire life. I couldn't get a good job back home, everyone harassed me and said I was too small or somethin'. But I came here to the good old United States lookin' for an opportunity. And sure enough, I got one. It's just puttin' small parts together on an assembly line. But it's good, honest work and I got no complaints. So when I heard them callin' me a leprechaun, well, I just got steamed real good.”

With his hands behind his back, Loomis paced away, toward the jury. “Here was this good, honest man who came here just to be given a chance, and he was hounded with the same bigotry that he sought to escape. Who among us would not be enraged in such a scenario?” He turned back to Ian. “And, Mr. McCormick, what happened next?”

“Well, I yelled at them to shut up.” Even with his bruises, he managed to put on a chastened expression. “I was angry, as I said. Well, they must not have liked that, because they started yellin' and runnin' for me. I tried to get away, but, well, my legs are too short and I couldn't exactly gallop out on a horse or nothin', so they caught me.

“The big guy,” Ian gestured at Michael, “grabbed me and lifted me up. I tried to get away and kicked him in a panic. That made him drop me, right on my back, when the blonde one,” he nodded at Luke, “started punchin' me and callin' me all sorts of names.”

“Let the record show that the big guy indicated by Mr. McCormick is Michael Maxwell, while the blonde one is Luke Georges,” Loomis said. “I know it may be difficult for you to repeat such hateful words, Mr. McCormick, but for the court if you could.”

“Aw, well,” Ian said, “they called me a mick and a midget and used all sorts of cuss words that, well, I'm not gonna repeat as a Godly man.”

“That is fine, Mr. McCormick, I believe we can all imagine them,” Loomis said. “And could you describe what the men did next.”

“Well, they just kept beatin' on me. I was beggin' them to stop, cryin' and yellin' for help. But they just kept kickin' and punchin' me. It just went on for a while and I guess I blacked out, cause the next thing I remember I'm wakin' up in the hospital.”

Loomis put his hands on his hips and turned to face the three accused. “These three men,” he said, his voice quivering. “They insulted Mr. McCormick and when he dared to take offense, they brutally beat and savaged him. They hurled racially charged epithets and swore profusely at him.” He dramatically spun to face the jury. “These are the actions of violent, angry men, taking retribution for what? A man asking that he not be insulted and be treated as any other man.” He turned to the judge. “I am finished, your honor.”

The judge turned a dark eye to Klapiss. “Your witness.”

Klapiss smiled slyly and stood slowly. He walked slowly to the witness stand and looked down at Ian. “Mr. McCormick, you said that these men called you a leprechaun, correct?”

“That's right,” Ian said.

“And they demanded your pot of gold, correct?”

“Yes,” Ian said, slowly and with some mild confusion.

“How many times did they do this?”

Ian turned and looked at his lawyer, who merely shrugged and motioned for him to go ahead. Ian turned back to Klapiss and said, “I don't rightly remember.”

“More than once?” Klapiss asked.

“Yes, more than once,” Ian said.

“Would you say they did it repeatedly?”

“I suppose so,” Ian said, his brows furrowed together over his blackened eyes.

Klapiss grinned at that and briefly glanced at the jury. “And are you a leprechaun, Mr. McCormick?”

Ian's eyes went wide and then his face began to change a shade of red. “No!” he objected loudly, his voice cracking midway through.

“You're lying!” Luke shouted as he sprang from his seat. The unexpected outburst brought gasps from the crowd and Ian jerked back, then cringed in pain from the sudden movement. The judge banged his gavel, loudly silencing the shocked courtroom.

“Sit down, Mr. Georges, or I will have you removed for contempt,” he angrily said. Luke turned livid and and slumped down into his seat. “The jury is to disregard Mr. Georges's statement,” the judge ordered firmly. He turned to Klapiss and glared at him. “Mr. Klapiss, you are to ensure your clients make no further outbursts. Is that understood?”

Klapiss simply nodded his head and turned away. As if the interruption had never happened, he asked, “One last question, Mr. McCormick. Do you believe leprechauns exist?”

Ian, still seeming to be flustered, huffed, “Of course not!”

“No further questions,” Klapiss declared, returning to his seat without looking at anyone else.

After a moment, Loomis declined to redirect. The bailiff helped Ian down from the witness stand and back into the gallery. Klapiss sat in his chair, his arms held behind his head, wearing a grin. His three clients glanced at him nervously, but otherwise remained silent and downtrodden as they had been before Luke's outburst.

Loomis called the doctor who had treated Ian next. The doctor explained in graphic detail the nature of Ian's injuries, including the unlikeliness of his survival. “Whenever I have seen similar injuries resulting from a physical assault,” the doctor said in response to a question, “the victim was always the target of a crime of hate with the intent to kill. I have never seen anyone survive such extensive trauma before.”

After Loomis finished, Klapiss stood and asked one question. “I would just like you to reiterate, doctor, that you have seen numerous racially-motivated attacks which resulted in similar injuries, yet always resulted in the death of the victim, correct?”

“That is correct,” the doctor answered with a professional nod.

“That is all.”

This time, Loomis took the opportunity to redirect. “Have you seen similar injuries in cases not related to a victim being beaten because of his race?” he asked the doctor.

The doctor considered a moment, then nodded. “Yes, I have. In some falls or in vehicular accidents. I once treated a man who had been attacked by a deer and had similar injuries.”

“Any cases of a person or persons beating a man, not in a racially-motivated assault, and receiving similar injuries?”

“I have not,” the doctor said, “but it is certainly possible for – ”

“Objection, hearsay,” Klapiss said. “Everything after 'I have not'.”

“Sustained,” the judge said with a sigh. “The jury is to regard the doctor's testimony only in regards to him personally having never witnessed injuries in an assault that was not racially-motivated.”

Loomis appeared upset by the objection, but said, “No further questions,” and returned stiffly to his chair.

Following that, Loomis brought the arresting officers to the stand one by one. Each related similar stories. None of the men had resisted arrest. When interrogated, they had been unwilling to admit to anything. The officer who had arrested Michael revealed that he was the one who had given up the names of the other two and had admitted that they had been the ones behind the attack. Even though his friends already knew that, Michael still sank lowered into his chair and tried to hide his face.

Klapiss declined to cross-examine any of them, which raised some murmurs from the gallery. However, Klapiss merely sat smugly grinning. Eventually, Loomis rested his case. The judge called a recess. “We're doing good, boys,” Klapiss said before excusing himself from the court room to go have lunch.

The three men were led out of the room by the police. They had their own meals waiting for them, though they were not nearly as nice as the one Klapiss was having. An hour later, the court reconvened, with Klapiss's ready to present his case.

He stood before the courtroom, hands clasped behind his back, body straight, legs set slightly apart. “Earlier, Mr. Loomis successfully argued that my clients were the ones behind the attack. Of that, there is no doubt. They did indeed chase down Mr. McCormick and brutally beat him. But the idea that it was 'racially-motivated' is a falsehood, insofar as the term is often used. My clients did, in fact, attack Mr. McCormick because of what they believed him to be, but it was not that he was Irish.

“In fact, my clients are quite friendly with numerous Irishmen. And it is through that association that Luke Georges, Samuel Johnson, and Michael Maxwell came to believe in leprechauns. They believed that Ian McCormick was a leprechaun. They believed that, in these difficult times, they could capture him and force him to turn over his mythical pot of gold. They would be rich men; set for life and no longer burdened by lives of toil and trouble.

“Believing such things, who could be blamed for taking similar actions? After all, do we blame furriers for killing animals for their coats? But of course, as we all know, there is no such thing as a leprechaun. They are a fabrication of old legend and myth. They are no more real than dragons, or Zeus and Hades, or any other such story.

“But my clients believed that leprechauns were real! No reasonable man, in his right mind, would believe such a thing. As we will show, my clients were deluded, troubled men, who thought they were capturing a mythological creature which would bestow upon them great riches! In short, they were quite insane.”

Another murmur rose through the court as the three men all shrank into their chairs further. Samuel lowered his head to the table and raised his arm, to hide his furious blush from onlookers. Michael raised the collar of his coat, while Luke covered his mouth with one hand while running and hand through his hair with the other.

He called his first witness to the stand; Michael Maxwell. That brought even more surprised murmurs from the crowd. None had expected that one of the accused would take the stand and risk incriminating himself through cross-examination. Michael meekly proceeded to the stand and was sworn in. As he promised to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” he continually glanced at Klapiss.

Finally, he settled into the stand. “Mr. Georges,” Klapiss asked, “did you attack Mr. McCormick?”

Michael cleared his throat roughly and said something too quiet for anyone to hear. The judge ordered he repeat himself in a loud voice so that the entire court could hear. “Yes,” Michael said, his voice tinny and stressed.

Klapiss simply nodded his head. “And why did you attack Mr. McCormick?”

“I thought he was a leprechaun,” Michael said, his voice wavering slightly. “I wanted to get his pot of gold.”

“Do you believe that leprechauns are real?” Klapiss asked.

“Yes, I do,” Michael said, his voice becoming softer again, but still loud enough for the court to hear.

“Do you still believe that leprechauns exist?” Klapiss pressed.

“I do.”

“And just to reiterate, from your own statements, you believe that leprechauns exist, that Mr. McCormick is a leprechaun, and that if you attacked him, he would provide you with his pot of gold?”

“Objection,” Loomis said firmly. “He's leading the witness.”

“Sustained,” the judge said forcefully. “Even though Mr. Maxwell established these facts, that does not give you the right to lead him in reestablishing them.”

“Very well,” Klapiss said without missing a beat. “Then, Mr. Maxwell, when you caught Mr. McCormick, what did you do?”

“I told him to give me his gold,” Michael said, rather firmer than before. “I told him he needed to give me his gold.”

“Did he deny being a leprechaun?”

“Yes,” Michael said.

“And how did that make you feel?” He shot a glance back at Loomis, almost challenging the man to object. However, he did not, instead just crossing his arms over his chest and glowering.

Michael ran a hand through his hair and glanced around the courtroom. His friends kept their eyes down, not meeting his gaze. Finally, Michael sighed and said, “Well, it made me pretty mad. I thought he was lying to me, you know. Not trying to give me what I was due. I figured if he wasn't telling the truth, we had to beat it out of him, right? So I hit him and got the others doing it too. We were just trying to get what was our due, ain't nothing wrong with that, right?”

“Do you still believe that Mr. McCormick is a leprechaun?” Klapiss asked.

Michael hesitated and looked out in the gallery, where Ian was sitting, looking at him with wide, impassive eyes. Michael started to say something, but it caught in his throat. Finally, he took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “I think he might be, yes.”

“And why do you still think that?” Klapiss asked.

“Well,” Michael swallowed heavily, his adam's apple bobbing visibly in his throat. “The doctor said he's never seen anyone survive injuries like his. So, well, if he was a leprechaun, maybe he used some of his magic to keep himself alive after we let him go.”

“If you were sure that Mr. McCormick wasn't a leprechaun, would you have ever attacked him?”

Michael shook his head firmly. “I've never hurt anyone before this,” he said. “You can ask anyone I know.”

Finally, Klapiss moved from his position, back to his seat. He sat down and leaned back in his chair and waited nearly a minute before finally saying, “No further questions.”

Loomis stood, brow furrowed, and walked toward the stand. “Do you really believe in leprechauns, Mr. Maxwell?” he asked firmly.

“Yes,” Michael said, not quite so firmly.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked. “Did your attorney, Mr. Klapiss, instruct you to claim you did in an effort to convince the jury you are insane when, in reality, you do not believe in any such thing as leprechauns?”

“Of...” Michael blinked heavily several times. “Of course not.”

“You do, of course, realize that lying to the court is perjury, even in defense of yourself,” Loomis said measuredly, looking right into Michael's eyes. “If you do, you will be charged with an additional crime.”

Michael swallowed hard again. “Yes, I realize that,” he said, his voice quivering slightly.

“Good,” Loomis said, turning and striding away. “Well then, Mr. Maxwell, when did you first learn about leprechauns?”

Michael looked at Klapiss, then back to Loomis, then at his friends, then the judge, then jury, and finally back to Loomis. “Well, I don't rightly remember,” he said.

“Please try,” Loomis insisted.

“I don't know,” Michael repeated.

Loomis shook his head and raised a finger. “You don't know? You are willing to beat a man, nearly to death, because you think he's a leprechaun and yet you don't even know when you supposedly came to believe in them! Surely, you must know when you learned about them!”

“Objection,” Klapiss said, “badgering the witness. Mr. Maxwell already said he doesn't remember when he learned about leprechauns. Does anyone here remember when they learned about Santa Claus? Or their first words? Or any other of a million things?”

“Sustained,” the judge said after a moment's contemplation.

“Very well,” Loomis said, looking mildly flustered. “If you believed Mr. McCormick was a leprechaun, why was he able to defy you?” he asked. “Shouldn't he have been obligated to give you his gold?”

“Well, that's why we hit him,” Michael said.

“And what would beating him into unconsciousness, and beyond, do?” Loomis asked sharply. “If he was knocked out, or worse, dead, he surely couldn't lead you to his gold, could he?”

“Well,” Michael said uneasily, “I guess not. I don't know, I didn't really think of that.”

“Isn't it true that you were actually just drunk?” Loomis asked.

Michael looked over at Klapiss, who had broken into another smile. He nodded. “Yes, it's true, I was drunk.”

Loomis threw his hands into the air. “Drunk! Violating the laws of these United States! Disobeying Prohibition! So you drunkenly attacked Mr. McCormick, is that a correct statement to make?”

“I...” Michael closed his eyes and shook his head, but said, “I suppose so.”

“But you didn't think attacking him was wrong, why? Because he was a leprechaun?”

“Yeah,” Michael said.

“Did you ever call him a mick?”

“I did not,” Michael said, causing a brief murmur through the court. Loomis held up his hand, though, and the gallery silenced.

“But did your friends? Mr. Georges or Mr. Johnson?”

Michael sighed. “Yeah, Luke did.”

“And finally, why did you run away from the scene?” Loomis asked. He thrust a finger at Michael. “If you didn't believe you were doing anything wrong, why did you flee when you heard the police sirens? Why not keep attacking?”

Michael smiled suddenly and glanced at Klapiss. Klapiss let his grin fade a little and didn't make any motion, even when Michael nodded at him. “We thought it was a banshee.”

“A banshee?” Loomis asked. “What is a banshee?”

“It's a spirit,” Michael said. He closed his eyes and mouthed words to himself for a second, then opened them and said, “It's supposed to come around when someone dies. So we thought we'd killed the leprechaun and that the spirit was coming, so we left.”

“Do you really believe in banshees, Mr. Maxwell?” Loomis asked with an exasperated expression.

“Of course,” Michael said.

Loomis shook his head and turned to the jury with incredulity. “No further questions,” he said with a sigh and took his seat.

Klapiss had no need to redirect and so called his next witness, Professor James Lincoln of Harvard University. “Professor Lincoln, can you please state your area of expertise?”

“Irish folklore,” he said.

“Irish folklore,” Klapiss repeated. “And leprechauns are a part of Irish folklore?”

“Yes, they are,” the professor answered.

“As are the banshees mentioned by Mr. Maxwell earlier, correct?”

“Yes,” Lincoln answered.

“Do many people believe in the existence of leprechauns and banshees?” Klapiss asked.

“There are a wide range of beliefs throughout the world,” Professor Lincoln said. “In Ireland itself, there are a number of individuals who purport to believe in the old myths and legends in leprechauns, banshees, tuatha de danann, firbolg, and other creatures. However, those believers tend to be the elderly, as in these more enlightened times, people are less likely to believe in spirits and fairies. In the United States, I have never witnessed anyone professing true belief in such things.”

“And should someone say they believed in those things, what would you think of them?”

The professor stroked his chin just for a moment, then said, “Well, I would think they are crazy.”

“No further questions,” Klapiss said.

Loomis immediately leapt to his feet. “You are not a psychiatrist, are you Mr. Lincoln?”

“No, I am not,” the professor said flatly.

“Then you are not qualified to determine if someone is insane or not, correct?”

“That is correct.”

Loomis nodded intensely. “Of course not. So tell me, what is the traditional Irish description of the leprechaun?”

“Well, that's an interesting question. The ancient, pre-Christian description of leprechauns paint them as old men who wear red or green and spend their time making shoes,” the professor said, clearly appreciative of being able to utilize his expertise outside of a classroom. “Originally, they were considered the tallest of the tuatha de danann, but when the Chr – ”

“Tallest?” Loomis said, cutting the professor off. “And an old man. Tell me, does Mr. McCormick match that description.”

“Well no, but - ”

“And the story about being owed a pot of gold if you capture him, is that found in the folklore?”

The professor, now quite flustered, said, “No, it was originally three wishes. I would have gotten to that, but you kept - ”

“What about being forced to beat the leprechaun to get what was owed you? Is that in the folklore anywhere?”

“Not that I know of,” the professor said with a huff. He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Loomis.

Loomis smirked. “No further questions.”

Klapiss rose quickly and marched to the witness stand. “Professor Lincoln, you were trying to say something about the size of leprechauns, but you were cut off. Could you please finish your statement?”

“Thank you,” the professor said, pulling on the hem of his jacket with indignation. “As I was saying, originally, they were considered the tallest of the tuatha de dannan, but after the Christians came, the myths of the leprechaun and other fairies were suppressed. As they became less important to the people of Ireland, they all shrank in size. Eventually, the leprechauns were considered to be around three feet tall, the size of a child.”

“That is all, Professor, thank you.” The professor departed the stand and Klapiss gave a smarmy smirk to Loomis. “For my next witness, I call Dr. Mitchell Richards, psychiatrist, to the stand.”

The doctor, an old man with a balding head and an old-fashioned mustache, slowly walked to the stand and settled himself in. After he was sworn in, Klapiss settled himself into his usual passively defiant stance; hands clasped behind his bolt-straight back.

“Dr. Richards,” he said, “do you believe leprechauns exist?”

“Of course not,” the doctor said in a vague accent. “I am a scientific man and know such things are impossible.”

“But there are three men here who believe in them quite strongly,” Klapiss said, indicating with his head his three clients. Each of them shifted uneasily in their seats. “Is that a rational belief?”

“Of course not,” the doctor repeated. “That is a delusion, of course. One that is not unknown among psychiatric literature. Why, Dr. Emil Kraepelin described a patient of his who professed an extreme belief that kobolds – tiny mischievous sprites – were tormenting him every night. He had numerous scratches over his body that he claimed were from the kobolds.” The doctor chuckled to himself. “They even called in a priest to exorcise him from demons, which of course had no effect. In the end, it turned out he was merely scratching himself in his sleep.”

Klapiss nodded sharply. “So in your professional opinion, are my clients suffering from a delusion?”

“It seems to be self evident that they are,” the doctor said with a confident nod.

“Would a delusion of this nature classify them as insane?”

“Yes,” the doctor answered without hesitation.

Klapiss turned away and glanced briefly at Loomis. “Your witness,” he said in a sing-song voice.

Loomis slowly rose from his chair. He walked slowly toward the witness stand and slowly folded his hands in front of his waist. “Dr. Richards,” he said, pausing a moment after saying so. His brows cinched together slightly. “You have not actually inspected any of the accused, have you?”

The doctor shook his head. “I have not.”

Loomis let out a long breath. “Then you have no idea if they are actually insane,” he said. “You have not diagnosed them except by hearsay and the words of others.”

“That is not true,” the doctor said. “I am quite well-respected. A well-trained doctor need not extensively examine a patient in order to offer a diagnosis. We need only listen to the symptoms in order to do so.”

“But what if they are lying?” Loomis asked.

The doctor shrugged. “It is possible they are lying,” he said, “but we must take all their actions together in whole. It is not disputed that they called the man a leprechaun, it is not disputed that they then attacked him. Taken together, it is a logical conclusion that they attacked him because they believe him to be a leprechaun.”

Loomis grumbled to himself and ran a hand through his hair. “They were drunk at the time of the attack. How would their inebriation affect their mental state?”

“If anything, that would only amplify their delusions,” the doctor said. “Alcohol muddies the mind. Studies have found it can make the schizophrenic more clearly hear voices and even have visual hallucinations.”

Loomis hung his head and shook it, starting to walk back to his table. Just as it seemed he was about to sit down, he paused and straightened up. “One more thing, doctor. If a man attacks another man to steal his hard-earned money, is he insane?”

“Well, of course not,” the doctor said. “He is merely a criminal.”

“Merely a criminal,” Loomis said as if suddenly understanding something. “Thank you, doctor, I've no further questions.”

The judge looked to Klapiss, who was peering at Loomis. Klapiss stood, then reconsidered, and sat down again. “No redirect,” he said.

The remainder of Klapiss's defense was calling witnesses to attest that they had seen the three men speak of leprechauns and fairies before. Loomis constantly called the credibility of the witnesses into question. Several were friends and family of the accused, and Loomis claimed they were coerced into making the claims due to concern for the men. Of course, there was no concrete proof on either side, so in the end it did little either way.

Loomis made an impassioned closing argument. “Gentlemen of the jury, this is a simply matter. These men are criminals. They assaulted an innocent man. The state claims it is because they hate the Irish. They claim they did so because they believed him to be a leprechaun and they wanted his treasure. Their attorney claims that this proves they are insane and should be institutionalized instead of imprisoned. But is that true?

“There was a famous series of photographs a few years ago in England called the Cottingley Fairies. It seemed to show two little girls playing with a variety of fairies. As respected an authority as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, celebrated author, believed they were real. It sparked great debate and it may never be decisively proven one way or another. But that's not even the point.

“They attacked a person. They brutally beat him. They nearly killed him. Even if leprechauns did exist, they would be a thinking, living, breathing creature. They look like men, they breathe like men, they eat like men, they even toil like men. That's all in the folklore and legends. Their attorney claimed that attacking a leprechaun would be like killing an animal for its fur. But an animal does not talk. An animal cannot think like a man does. An animal does not know about property or laws or rights. A leprechaun, from all we have heard, is simply an eccentric man with a little bit of magic thrown in.

“Does that give us the right to assault them to take their things? It is the Salem Witch Trials all over again. It is not insanity, it is simple cruelty. It is the actions of criminals. This is a simple matter. Do not let these men go free because they might believe in fairies. Even if they do, it simply doesn't matter. They can and will do harm to someone again.”

Klapiss made his own argument, but all agreed it was wooden and unconvincing compared to Loomis's. “Mr. Loomis says it is a simple matter that my clients are criminals, but I say no. If a man says he hears voices, we say he is crazy. If he says he sees monsters, we say he is crazy. If he claims the President is poisoning him, we say he is crazy! If he commits a criminal act because of these things, we say he was not in a right state of mind and that society has failed him by allowing him to fall to such a state where he committed that crime!

“My clients committed a crime, yes. They did it because they are not in their right minds. They need not punishment, they need treatment. They must have doctors cure them of their delusional beliefs in leprechauns, spirits, and other mythological creatures. If they are not, if they are simply sent to prison, they will still have these delusional beliefs when they leave, and they will face terrific challenges to their lives.

“So do the right thing. Declare them innocent by reason of insanity. Let them get help. Do not put three good men away because of their mental sicknesses.”

The jury deliberated for barely an hour before returning their verdict. “We the jury find Luke Georges guilty of aggravated battery. We the jury find Michael Maxwell guilty of aggravated battery. We the jury find Samuel Johnson guilty of aggravated battery.”

The crowd let out cheers as the verdicts were read. Edward Loomis could not contain himself and gave a whoop of triumph as the final verdict was read. Arnold Klapiss rose stiffly, his palms flat on his table. Then Luke, Michael, and Samuel all simply let out their breaths. Strangely, they seemed to be more relaxed than they had all trial long, though Michael had gone pale and Samuel looked on the verge of tears. Only Luke wore a hard expression, though he was no longer slumped in his chair, trying to hide himself as before.

Klapiss turned to them and said, “We'll appeal. Don't worry.”

They did appeal. It was turned down. In writing his opinion, the presiding judge echoed Loomis's closing argument. “The laws of these United States protect a man's property and prohibit bodily harm against them regardless of their creed or color. A man is a man is a man. It does not matter if he is a man of normal proportions or of exaggerated ones. It matters not if he is a leprechaun or a fairy or a selkie or a kobold or any other matter of 'magical creature'. The laws of the land protect everyone from undue harm. If we call these men insane, then we call any man who commits a crime of greed insane.”

There were no further appeals. The three men served their time and when they were released, they were better men for it.

Ellis Island, March 3, 1924

A stooped, wrinkled old man shuffled forward carrying a heavy pot covered with a sheet. He wore a red coat with seven rows of seven buttons. As he reached the front of the line, the immigration official looked up at him and quirked an eyebrow. “Name?” the official asked.

“Lugh Ó Cathal,” the old man said in a heavy Irish accent.

The official scratched down a name on the form that vaguely resembled what the old man had said. “Profession?”

“Shoe maker,” the old man said.

“Country of origin?”


“Ethnicity,” the official said, already writing down “Irish” in the provided form. But before he could finish the second “i” the old man laid a hand on his wrist and stopped him.

“Leprechaun,” he said. The official looked up sharply in surprise and Lugh Ó Cathal smiled a wide broken smile and cackled.

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