Greg Tenorly drove the familiar route from the church to his music studio, studying the homes along the way. He wondered about the families who lived in each one. Like that two-story brick on the corner. What secrets were they hiding? Was the husband abusive? Did a teenager use drugs? Was the family nearly bankrupt? How could anyone know? It was better not to know. The mind can only handle so many problems at one time. He wondered where Troy and Cynthia Blockerman lived.
Greg had appeared at the courthouse that morning as part of a jury pool, only to be released. He and the rest of his group would have to return the next morning. He hoped they would not need him. The church would pay his regular part-time salary while he was serving on a jury, but any private lessons he missed would be money lost.
Greg’s red 1965 Pontiac Bonneville convertible always turned heads as he drove through the small town. He had purchased it two months earlier from a career Navy man down in Longview who had babied the thing for years. It spent most of its life in the man’s garage, coming out only when he was on leave. Most trips were to the car wash or the Pontiac dealer for scheduled maintenance.
Greg gladly paid $4,000 for it. The sailor called him the very next day and tried to buy it back. He said it was like losing a member of the family. Greg felt bad, but not bad enough to give up the car. How could a 40-year-old car have only 93,000 miles on it? It was dazzling.
His little studio was near the town square, nestled between Coreyville Hardware and Susie’s Sewing Box. Occasionally he and a student could hear a pipe wrench or hammer hitting the floor on the hardware side. But things were always quiet from Susie’s side. At least the soundproofing he had installed kept his neighbors from hearing his students. You can’t teach music without hearing both beautiful sounds and sour notes.
Parking the mammoth red beauty behind the building always made him a little nervous. The two pickups next door were in and out constantly. It was only a matter of time before one of those trucks drove out of the alley with red paint across the fender.
He walked through the back door, and into the odor of yesterday’s Folgers and aging music scores and textbooks. A welcome aroma.
The message machine was flashing.
Message 1: Hello Greg, this is Penelope Ragsdale. I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make my lesson today. Thanks.
That’s $12 down the drain, he thought.
Message 2: Mr. Tenorly, this is Patty Hansel. Hugh fell out of a tree and broke his collar bone, so he’s going to miss his piano lessons for a while. I’ll let you know when he can come back. Thanks.
Why did they name the kid Hugh? Maybe he was named after Hugh Grant or Hugh Jackman. Surely not Hugh Hefner.
Greg had twenty-nine students. Many of them took two lessons per week. He taught piano, voice, guitar, and music theory. His teaching hours were from 1:00-8:00 PM, although there were plenty of open time slots. On an average week, seven or eight students cancelled lessons. He dreaded phone calls, since they were nearly always cancellations.
The phone rang, and Greg reluctantly picked up.
“Hey, man, how’s it going?”
It was David Beachton, owner of BeachTone Tanning Salon and a bass in Greg’s choir. Greg didn’t think tanning was healthy, even in the sun—much less under artificial light. He tried not to think about it too much because David was a good friend.
“I’m fine. How about you?”
“I just wanted to let you know you are not off the hook for the big trial.”
“How did you find out?”
“Greg, I’m always one of the first to know what’s going on in this town. You know that. They only got eight jurors out of today’s group. So, they’ll have a shot at you tomorrow.”
“Hope I don’t get picked.”
“Oh, you will. No doubt.”
“But I can’t make a living while I’m spending time on a jury.”
“I hate to tell you, Buddy, but they don’t care. Besides, you want to do your civic duty, right?” David laughed. He would hate taking time for jury duty.
“Yeah, right. But what makes you so sure I’ll be picked?”
“Think about it, Greg. They’ll ask if you can be fair—even though the defendant is black and the victim was white. You will say ‘Yes.’ They’ll want to know if you have any relatives or friends directly connected to the case. You will say ‘No.’ You’ll answer each question correctly just by being honest. So, if you don’t want to serve, you’ll have to lie. But you won’t.”
Greg was overdue for some lunch. His first lesson was an hour away, so he locked up, and walked down the sidewalk to Jane’s Diner. He heard the usual ring of the bell and a ’Hi’ from Jane as he walked in. He sat down in his favorite booth at the front window. He liked to watch the people come and go, around town square.
Things were so different here than in Longview, where he had lived for many years. Like stepping into the mid-1960s in many ways. It only seemed fitting that his car was a 1965 model.
As was often the case, Jane herself waited on him.
“Do you need a menu today, Greg?” She always asked, but he never needed one. He had only lived in Coreyville for about a year, but he ate at Jane’s nearly every day.
“No thanks, Jane. Just give me the turkey on wheat and a Diet Coke.” It was a delicious sandwich, piled high with extra thin turkey slices, fresh lettuce, dark red tomato from a local gardener, and mayo on toasted whole wheat bread. It came with a huge dill spear and potato chips on the side.
While Greg was waiting for his lunch, he overheard some men talking in the back of the restaurant.
“There’s no doubt he’s guilty. I don’t know why they’re wasting taxpayer money to try that piece of trash!”
Greg was beginning to realize how difficult it would be to find twelve impartial jurors for the trial. Then he heard the 1:30 train barreling through the outskirts of town. It felt like he was tied across those tracks. The murder trial was coming toward him like a locomotive.
Resistance was futile.
His appetite was gone.