“So, Jenny tells me jury selection is going well,” said Buford, puffing small billows of Cuban cigar smoke into the phone with each syllable.
“Yes, I think so too.”
Kyle was speeding down FM-2208 in his new Lexus SC 430, headed toward Coreyville. He could barely make his lease payments, but he had to have that car. It screamed success— especially with the top down. His wavy head of hair would be easily restored to perfection with a few brush strokes.
“Well, you be sure to take her advice. She knows how to pick a jury.”
Buford figured some of Kyle’s attention would be focused on getting Jenny into bed, but he didn’t think it would jeopardize the case.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Bellowin, I will.”
At only 27, Kyle Serpentine had already developed a successful practice in Longview, defending every kind of crook. Some of them paid handsomely. He idolized Buford Bellowin. Buford had grown up in Coreyville and earned his Bachelor’s and Law degree at University of Texas, graduating near the top of his class.
Now he was a high-priced, infamous defense attorney headquartered in Dallas. Nicknamed ‘The Bell’, he had never lost a case. Even in law school, his mock trial team always won.
And Buford put on a show in the courtroom. So, the gallery was always packed with those who wanted to see The Bell in action. Occasionally, some hotshot would think he could outsmart him. But Buford was the teacher, and it was his classroom. Before the prosecutor knew what hit him, The Bell would ring, and school was out.
“The D.A. really thought she could get a jury out of that pool of forty, didn’t she? She thought this was gonna be a cakewalk. They don’t get many murder trials in Coreyville. That’s good for us. And she’ll make more mistakes. Mark my words.”
“I don’t know. She seems pretty sharp.”
“Just win this case for me and I promise I’ll remember you when I take residence in the Governor’s mansion in a few years.”
“I will do my best, Sir,” practically saluting.
“Now, Kyle, I’m sure you’re beginning to see there’s a lot of prejudice in that little town. The whites make up 72% of the population, and I’m afraid the old hatred and suspicion toward blacks is still right there under the surface. That boy on trial doesn’t stand much of a chance without a great defense. He would have been ‘dead in the water’ with a public defender. That’s why I asked you to take the case. You do your job, son, or he’s going down the toilet.”
“He will have an excellent defense, Sir. I’ve never lost a case,” said Kyle, with confidence.
“Call me when you’re done for the day.” Buford hung up, and was already dialing Jenny’s number before Kyle could respond.
“Hello?” Jenny Slidell answered in her low, mellow voice.
“Keep him in line, Jenny.”
“Good morning, Buford. Don’t worry. I’ll come through for you. As always.”
“Has he asked you why I’ve taken such an interest in this case?”
“No. I don’t think he wants to know what your motives are. Maybe he’s trying to maintain deniability in case something goes wrong.”
Sweet Jenny. She didn’t really know what Buford’s motives were either.
“Smart young man. He should go far in this business.” Buford laughed. “The most important thing is, we’ve got to have Greg Tenorly on that jury. I don’t care what you have to do, Jenny. Make it happen.”
“No problem. We’ve used all of our peremptory strikes. And the D.A. has used all of hers. Greg Tenorly will be third in line today, so there’s no way we can miss. The D.A. will like him. And even if she doesn’t, there won’t be any legitimate reason to strike him for cause. Believe me, I’ve done my homework.”
Jenny was smart and spunky and blonde and sexy. And almost always right. She was the best jury consultant Buford had ever used. Now if she would only succumb to his advances. He always had his way with the hot babes. It was just a matter of time before she would come around.
“I’m counting on you, Jenny. Call me later.”
Buford hung up and directed his attention across his massive mahogany desk to the skinny man sitting quietly in a chair. Marty Crumb must have been plagued with horrible acne as a teenager, because his face looked like oatmeal. His 53-year-old voice sounded like ninety years worth of smoking and hard liquor. Buford felt slimy just being in the same room with him.
“Let’s make it quick,” said Buford. “Have you taken care of Cynthia Blockerman?”
Marty started to talk, but instead coughed…and coughed. At least he was covering his mouth. Covering it with hands that had strangled, beat and executed untold numbers of innocent people. He sounded like he might cough up a lung. Then he cleared his throat. Buford prayed he wouldn’t spit on the carpet. Instead, Marty swallowed it, which was no better.
“Mrs. Blockerman is being cooperative. Apparently, she loves her mother and wants her to go on living.”
“Fine. But, that’s more than I wanted to know.”
Marty flashed an evil smile, revealing decaying teeth.
“Just make sure the jury does the right thing. If you want to stay out of prison.”
Marty stood up and gave Buford a bone-chilling stare that lasted several long seconds. He didn’t have a gun or a knife. There were guards in the lobby. And metal detectors. But Marty didn’t need a gun or a knife. He could kill you seventeen different ways.
Just when Buford thought he was about to soil himself, Marty slowly turned, and walked out of the office, leaving the door wide open.
Buford leaned back in his chair, trying to regain his composure, and control over his bladder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with someone such as Marty. But his future had been threatened.
Buford’s first job had been at Sam’s Bicycle Shop, and Sam had been like a father to him. But Sam knew what would happen if he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. It was unfortunate, but sometimes sacrifices must be made.
Nobody would stand in the way of Buford Bellowin.