Greg stopped by the courthouse concession stand for a cup of coffee, even though he had already downed four cups at Jane’s Diner across the street. The old man behind the counter reached for Greg’s dollar with a noticeably shaky hand that looked as though it had held more cigarettes and booze than money in its lifetime.
He took his coffee and walked up the stairs to the second floor. There were about fifty people standing in the hallway outside the courtroom making small talk. He recognized a few of them, but was in no mood to start a conversation.
Only four more jurors and two alternates were needed. With a little luck, he would soon be sent on his way. The coffee tasted bitter, but he continued to sip on it anyway, just to occupy himself.
After a few minutes, a woman walked out of the courtroom and spoke to the crowd in monotone. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are ready to get started. We did not get enough jurors yesterday for the criminal trial, so we are going to use part of today’s panel for that purpose. Those who are not selected for the criminal trial today must appear tomorrow at 8:00 AM for the civil trial jury selection.
“First, I will call the names of the jurors that have already been selected. When I call your name, please go into the courtroom and take your seat in the pews where you sat yesterday. Please sit in the order in which your names are called.”
“Alexander Littleton…Gail Silestone…” The crowd carefully analyzed each person as he walked through the group and into the courtroom. “Mary McJohnson…William Biscayne …Judy McPhearson…John Nihmbor…Nancy Novelle… and Troy Blockerman.”
Greg nearly choked on his coffee. Troy Blockerman! That’s Cynthia’s husband. His blood pressure shot up like a bottle rocket, exploding into a headache.
“And now I will call the names of a portion of today’s panel. Those whose names are not called will need to stay here in the courthouse since we might still need you today. I will let you know when you can go home. Again, please sit in the order in which your names are called. Elsie Olstead…Lory Lipscomb…Greg Tenorly…”
Seventeen more names were called, but Greg didn’t hear any of them. His numb body didn’t feel the coldness or the hardness of the pew on which he sat. Nor did he notice the buzzing fluorescent light fixture located directly above his head.
He could only think about Cynthia’s husband. Apparently, Troy didn’t yet know the name of his wife’s mystery man. But surely it was just a matter of time before Greg’s identity was revealed to the big, mean drunk who was sitting a few feet away.
David Beachton had predicted it. The prosecutor and the defense attorney took their turns asking questions. Greg answered each question almost robotically. He would be selected. And there was nothing he or anyone else could do to stop it.
He began to come out of his haze when he heard the judge thanking those who had not been selected. There would be a 15-minute break, and then the trial would begin. Greg needed to use that time to call students and cancel lessons.
As he walked into the hallway, he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and turned it on. It began to ring. It was an unknown caller. Probably a student canceling his lesson. Good. It would save him the trouble of calling them.
“Hello? This is Greg.”
“Greg, this is Cynthia Blockerman.”
Greg quickly surveyed the hallway. He couldn’t find Troy Blockerman. Maybe he had gone to the restroom, or down to the concession stand.
Greg whispered, “Cynthia, I got selected to serve on the jury for the murder trial. And your husband is on the jury too!”
“Are you okay? How bad did he hurt you?”
“Yes, I’m alright. Just a little bruised. Sorry about the call last night. I was really scared. But I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“No, no, that’s okay. But you never called me back, and I was worried. And then he called me.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“I hope you didn’t give him my name.”
“No. And don’t worry. He won’t even remember what happened last night. He never remembers anything from when he’s drunk.”
“Good.” Greg looked around to reassure himself that nobody was listening.
“But, Greg, since you’re on the jury I need to tell you something Troy said last night—”
“—wait. I can’t talk about the case.”
“This is not about the case. It’s about Troy. Last night, while he was still sober, he was saying things like, that black boy ought to be hung. The electric chair ain’t good enough for that scum. I don’t know whether the man is guilty or not, but I don’t see how he can get a fair trial when a juror has already made up his mind before the trial even starts.”
Greg felt it welling up in his chest—righteous indignation.
“Don’t worry. This will be a fair trial. I will make sure of that.”
He looked up and saw Troy Blockerman standing right in front of him, and quickly ended the call, “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Hey, ain’t you that piano teacher?”
It was a simple question. But would the answer lead to a bloody nose?
“Yes, I teach piano, voice, guitar, and music theory.”
“Yeah, I thought so. My sister’s kid takes piano from you.”
“I don’t recall meeting you.” Surely Greg would have remembered this guy. He looked like an offensive tackle.
“No, I didn’t meet you. I just saw you standing in the doorway when I dropped her off.”
Troy leaned in close and Greg flinched.
“This trial should be over by the end of the day. This guy is toast.”
Jenny had completed her job and was headed back to Dallas. She turned off the blaring CD player, and made a phone call.
“Mission accomplished, Buford.”
She had once asked him why his parents named him ‘Buford’—not a popular name in 1969 when he was born. And why he didn’t use a nickname instead. He had told her it was his grandfather’s name. And people remembered the name because it was unusual. He liked that.
“So, we got Troy Blockerman and Greg Tenorly?”
“Okay. Great job, Jenny.”
“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking—why was it so important to get those two men on the jury? I can understand why the defense would want Greg Tenorly. But why Troy Blockerman? He’s a redneck who’s obviously going to vote ‘Guilty.’”
“I don’t mind you asking, Dear. But, if you want an answer, you’ll have dinner with me tonight.”
Jenny wasn’t sure her curiosity was that strong.
End of Excerpt
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