Behind the Scenes
New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
Behind the Scenes
Thena Pales walked into her living room and just managed to shed her parcels before her children, Mark and Cindy, completed their headlong rush to greet her. She quickly responded to their kisses and groping bear hugs by dropping to one knee and giving as well as she was receiving. A standard in the Pales’ household was that one never held back affection or enthusiasm. There was never an excuse not to show warmth. The household thus tended toward bedlam, chaos, and pandemonium – but with the latter totally devoid of any Milton style demons. In fact, it was more the Chinese combination of chaos and opportunity. It was also notably more fun.
“Did my angels miss me?” Thena had to make just such an assumption, based on their eagerness to love and be loved.
Mark was the first to confirm Thena’s assumption… at least in part. “Yes! But me more than Cindy!”
Thena, with an overly dramatic and questioning expression, looked at Cindy, who promptly covered her face with both hands. And then peaking out and exhibiting her patented shy smile, the younger Cindy took only a few seconds to rush back into Thena’s arms.
With both kids over the immediate enthusiasm and now intent upon some other adventure…potentially involving a pirate with sorcerer skills… the two youngsters rushed off. Thena’s husband, Paul, quickly took their place, albeit after Thena had stood back up. The two embraced, and then Paul asked the all-important question.
“How’d it go?”
Thena took a deep breath, and with a weak smile, replied, “I’m in. I’m to report tomorrow morning.”
“Good,” Paul replied, encouragingly. You’ll be fantastic. A jury needs a black woman’s perspective.”
“The problem is that they told us we’d almost certainly be sequestered. What are we going to do about the children?”
“They’ll be fine, just like I told you. I’ve learned a lot from watching you. Besides, I suspect I will be overrun with help from the neighbors. Apparently, the word is already out. Everybody’s gung ho about the possibility of your being able to carry a message to the world at large.”
Thena smiled as her husband kissed her on the forehead.
“You realize of course, that I am just going to be on a jury. That does not lend itself to my making any far-reaching political announcements.”
Paul laughed. “I know. But you’re still going to be great.”
Cindy had wandered in as her parents hugged again. Cindy loved to watch her parents do such things. It provided her with a very warm feeling, even if she had no idea why. But the last statement caught her attention.
“Where are you going, mommy?”
“On a quest!”
“Can I go?”
“No, baby. This is a mommy quest.”
Cindy thought about it for about a nanosecond. “Cool.”
With that the youngster wrapped her arms around Thena’s leg.
Henry Michel was at his computer, doing work with some sophisticated graphics. His hand fairly flew over the keyboard, with generous movements donated to mouse manipulations. His expression was serious, but not grave. He loved this kind of stuff! The world was at his fingertips… literally… and every command he issued was followed meticulously and precisely – with only power failures disrupting the process. Of course, the latter was not entirely uncommon, but even with the occasional failure of power there was still the possibility of operating in a vacuum… so to speak.
Paul Plaine, Henry’s boss, walked into the small office with its wall to wall books, papers, paraphernalia of both personal and mysterious qualities, and all manner of items Paul never really wanted to know about. This was Henry’s lair and the rule of the Cyber men was one never disturbs the environment of a genius at work… not if you wanted the end product to be finished on schedule.
Paul looked over Henry’s shoulder, while Henry acknowledged Paul’s presence only to the extent of a quick shoulder shrug.
“Hey! Looks good,” Paul said. Actually Paul didn’t have a clue about what he was seeing. Henry could have been hacking into the CIA to plant gay-rights pamphlets for all Paul knew. But Paul also knew that bosses should periodically praise their employees and to do this, it was often necessary to pretend that the boss actually knew what the employee was doing… and thus why the employee’s work was laudatory.
Then, of course, the boss-concern for productivity part slipped in. “You going to be able to finish this before reporting for jury duty?”
“No choice,” Henry replied, the flight of his fingers across the keyboard never slowing. “They’re going to lock us up.”
Paul shook his head. “Just in case you’re thinking that without you I could finish this… don’t think that. It’d take me three years.”
“Yeah,” Henry replied. “But think how much you’d learn!”
Paul grimaced. “The only thing I’d probably learn would be to not hire civic minded computer jocks.”
Henry did hesitate on that one and looked up at Paul. “I’ll be sure to put in a plug for you at the end of the trial.”
Paul relented. “I can deal with that. Be sure it's for a TV camera. Better demographics.”
Thomas Veer sat at his meticulously neat desk, writing checks from his large, three-checks-to-a-page checkbook. A neat pile of three envelopes had been carefully and with great precision stacked to one side. Veer finished the last check, carefully inserted it into its appropriate envelope, checked to ensure that the check was in the correct envelope, and then sealed it. With great care, he carefully aligned an “American Flag” stamp on the envelope (the latter which included a preprinted and embossed return address). Placing the envelope on the stack with the other letters, he made sure that the four envelopes were precisely stacked, and then slipped the checkbook back into the center drawer. He locked the drawer with a key and then pulled at the drawer to ensure that it was secure. He then aligned the blotter pad on his desk.
After a quick appraisal of his desk, he rose from his chair, and then moved to one portion of his one-wall bookshelf. After a quick glance around… for security purposes… he then proceeded to carefully open a small, hidden compartment from behind a decorative vase. With the safe open, he removed a large, deadly looking handgun… more precisely… a 357 Magnum loaded with genuine hollow-point 357 shells. It was a serious weapon.
With even more care, he begin checking the handgun for being in proper working order, fully loaded, and how it felt in his hand. For the first time in the last hour, he smiled. It was the kind of smile exhibited when someone knows that every thing is the proper place and the immediate future already well planned out.
Jack stepped into his kitchen through the back door. Terri was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room, her eyes glued to the television in the living room… and simultaneously prepped to greet Jack with considerably more enthusiasm than in recent years. With Jack’s arrival, she gave him her best, delighted-beyond-belief smile.
“Oh, my God! I can’t believe you made it! This is so exciting! Quick! You’ve got to see this latest report!”
Jack was far less enthusiastic. “I don’t think I’m supposed to be watching the news right now.”
“Oh, this is not news,” Terri assured him. “It’s just some reject who didn’t make it on to the jury for the trial of the century.”
As Terri moved into the living room to accommodate Jack, he leaned his head just far enough to see the television… while at the same time keeping far enough away to quickly turn a deaf ear and blind eye… just in case.
Channel Seven’s very own Raymond Mills, known for his no-holds barred investigative and irresponsible journalism was deep in the process.
“Mr. Leaver, are you saying that you were illegally kept off the jury?”
William Leaver flinched slightly. “Can’t say I know what’s legal. It’s not like I’m a lawyer. But they did ask me if I’d ever had any trouble in court. When I told them about being cheated out of an inheritance by a crooked judge and an equally crooked lawyer… well… they pretty much couldn’t wait to dismiss me. Hell, man! Everybody who has ever gone to court has probably been cheated out of something! The justice system is garbage! But that’s no reason to eliminate me as a juror!”
“Then what you’re saying is critics of the court system can’t be jurors?”
“Sure looks that way to me.”
Jack took the remote from Terri’s hand and turned off the television.
“You might want to plan on getting used to not having the news on while I’m here.”
“It might be prejudicial.”
Terri frowned with her own special emphasis. “That’s silly!” One might have thought that such an observation would trump all other considerations. But it, like so many other things, was not quite enough to divert the conversation. “Are you telling me that you can’t distinguish between rumor and evidence just because you watched TV?”
“Of course, I can. At least, I think I can.”
“Then that’s crazy! You’re supposed to know what’s going on!”
“Not actually. I’m supposed to be a blank slate. It’s only what I’m allowed to hear in the courtroom that counts. Anything else might lead me to make a premature judgment… before hearing all of the facts.”
Terri frowned again. “When did you ever premature anything? And what about your being smart? That’s got to include knowing what’s going on in the world. Doesn’t it?”
Jack’s expression quickly turned to a devilish smile. “Funny thing is that in all the confusion, I think I kind of slipped in. They just didn’t ask me the right questions.”
Terri laughed. “Won’t they be surprised?”
Jack took on his totally innocent look. “My education and experience are on my form. All they had to do was to read it.”
Terri clapped her hands, bouncing on her toes. “They can’t take you off the jury now! This is all just too fantastic! Money, money, money!”
Jack shook his head, smiled for his own amusement and stepped back into the kitchen.
Sir Richard Newdigate was standing in Bushell’s London living room. His arms were outstretched and holding each of Katrina’s hands. He smiled in his best consoling manner, while Katrina could only look worried.
“He’s fine, Katrina. It’s true that he was selected for jury duty. But it should only take a day or so. Her majesty’s court system is extremely efficient.”
“But I thought he’d be dismissed!”
Sir Richard shrugged and taking Katrina by one hand began to guide her toward a couch. “Frankly, so did I. But while we weren’t allowed to talk at length, he did give me every indication of his being perfectly content with the situation. You must not worry needlessly.”
Katrina stopped suddenly, her eyes closing, both hands coming to her face to partially cover her mouth in a traditional prayer mode. Shaking her head, she cried, “Oh, merciful Mother of God!”
“Katrina! What’s wrong?”
Katrina shook her head, opening her eyes and staring at the ornate mantle of the fireplace. “Edward! My dear, foolish husband!”
Sir Richard was definitely perplexed. “I don’t understand.”
Turning to him, Katrina asked, “How much do you know of Edward’s upbringing, his early history?”
Sir Richard shrugged. “I must confess to knowing very little. Edward is a very private man… as am I. Why do you ask?”
“Edward’s childhood was one of too little food, too little heat, too little anything. His father was a Puritan schoolmaster who was simply unable to provide adequately for his family. As a result, Edward was quite frail as a boy, even to the extent that an uncle who felt sorry for him named Edward in his will. Edward’s uncle seemed to think that his nephew should enjoy something of an inheritance while he yet had life in his body.”
“Thus accounting for his rather notable drive to succeed in what he kept referring to as his “business of sugars.” Sir Richard shook his head knowingly.
Katrina acknowledged Sir Richard’s understanding. “It’s true that with his younger brother, John… the healthy one… dispatched to Barbados to raise sugar, and his uncle’s shipping connections, Edward has done quite well by his family… as I will personally attest.” Katrina’s voice suddenly became more earnest. “But two years ago…”
“Ah, yes,” Sir Richard replied, as if suddenly understanding. “The great Bridgetown fire.” As Katrina’s silent gesture confirmed as much, Sir Richard then turned in surprise. “But surely Edward does not blame himself!”
Katrina began to carefully measure her words. “It was likely the slave discontent. But the fires did start in Edward’s own warehouses. Sir Richard, you must realize that it had a strong effect on Edward.”
“But to serve on a jury…?”
Katrina straightened herself ever so slightly. “My husband saw in the slave uprising: a tyranny, one of insidious dimensions, one with which he would have to contend.”
“And you think he intends to serve as a juror to make some kind of repentance… to speak against some… tyranny?”
“Not repentance, Sir Richard. Instead… I rather imagine he may be taking a stand against anything that threatens liberty in our land.”
Sir Richard suddenly became deadly earnest. “Katrina, this is serious. The courts of our beloved England are not disposed toward anyone questioning their authority.”
Katrina could only say, the hint of moisture already in her eyes. “I know.”
Thoughtfully, Sir Richard added, “Then there is much to do. We must begin to gather allies. This is not something Edward can do alone.”
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