The Perils of Justice
New - 22 September 2008
We the Jury, a novel:
The Perils of Seeking Justice
The police car was driving along the streets of Denver, dodging normal traffic while attempting to put distance between the car and the courthouse. At the same time, the driver was trying diligently to look to all appearances as if it were just a black and white on a routine patrol. Only in this case, the uniformed officer had a pedestrian in civilian clothes – who hopefully appeared to the average observer as a plainclothes detective or law enforcement agent who was appraising the routine patrol.
As it turned out it was Charles Milson who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the police cruiser. They had already passed through the gauntlet of the mass of demonstrators screaming their anger, displeasure, and shock at the announced verdict. One mobster had started to slam something heavy against the passenger side windshield, but the jostling crowd had caused the man to lose his balance and drop his makeshift weapon.
Once they had cleared the last of the demonstrators and when there had appeared to be no organized pursuit – none of the protestors having thought ahead to have a chase car ready just in case – the officer took a quick glance at Charlie. The man he saw was clearly exhausted, but the officer assumed Charlie’s problems were only now beginning.
“Looks to me, fella,” he said, “that you done peed in your chili.”
Charlie looked at the officer, thinking that his armed escort might not be his immediate enemy. Charlie then asked, “Ever serve on a jury?”
“Can’t say I have. It’s ain't exactly allowed.”
“You really should try it sometime,” Charlie suggested.
“No thanks. Where to?”
“Not real sure. How about Seattle?”
The unmarked police car pulled up across the street from where several people were milling about the entrance to the apartment house. The police officer turned off the ignition and then looked back to where Katrina set in the back seat next to Edward.
“You sure you want me to leave you here?”
Katrina shook her head. “I don’t have any other place to go.”
“I wouldn’t want to take advantage of your vulnerability,” Edward gently said, “but I might be able to help.”
“I would very much appreciate that.”
“I have a sister who would dearly love to have you as a temporary guest.”
Katrina looked at Edward and then the Police Officer, who was gently smiling. Katrina smiled as well. The officer started the car.
Brightman and Duke were in the back seat of an unmarked police car as it came around the corner of the alley into the apartment’s parking lot. A milling crowd of nasty looking individuals took one look at the car and suddenly converged on it. Several began hitting the windows with clubs, as Brightman tried to burrow into his seat, clearly terrified of the attack. The uniformed officer driving the police car was forced to dodge a tire iron hitting the windshield. In an automatic response, he quickly radioed for help.
“Officer down… thirtieth and Wadsworth! Back lot of apartment house.”
Duke had initially ducked, but then in full blown anger, slammed open the door into one of the demonstrators, knocking the man back and down. As Duke stepped out of the car, a second demonstrator tried to hit him with a baseball bat, but Duke dodged the swing and promptly kicked the man between the legs. As the second man went down, Duke slammed him with both fists in the back of the head. The others immediately near him suddenly hesitated as they watched... the Duke. Then one threw a rock that narrowly missed the big man’s head. Duke, now loaded for bear with the baseball bat, then moved toward the others. Several yelled obscenities, and just as Duke caught one glancing rock from behind, sirens were heard.
Thena, with Olivia in tow, got out of the police car and scampered up the front steps of the almost deserted church. It was an old church, one of the classic structures on the renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard. Normally it would have had plenty of parishioners. But this was not one of those evenings.
The door to the church had been ajar as Thena and Olivia rushed up to it. Then, just as they arrived, it was opened by Thena’s husband, Paul. He ushered both of them inside. Once inside the sanctuary, Olivia managed to catch her breath, as Thena turned to Paul. Her expression was one of fright and concern, while, thankfully, Paul was comparatively calm.
“They’re fine. Don’t worry. We watched the verdict from Henry and Gail’s place. They’re still there. Ted and Lester came over as well. With linebackers like that, we don’t have anything to worry about.”
“Also, I called Frank. He said there’s couple of dozen people milling around outside the house. I figure the kids will stay with Henry and Gail tonight. The preacher here is going to let us hole up in one of his old parishioner’s home. It seems the old lady is a notorious revolutionary.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll weather it.”
“Is there room for one more?” Thena glanced at Olivia.
Paul smiled. “Sure. The more the merrier.”
Jack and Lin Sue were sharing their ride in their own personal black and white. As they pulled up across and still some distance down the street from where nearly twenty people were milling around, the officer parked the car and turned off his lights. He then turned to the two former jurors, a definitive frown on his face.
“You’ve either got a lot of friends, or this could turn nasty.”
Lin Sue asked, “What do you suggest?”
“Basically, it’s your call.”
Then he turned back to survey the crowd and officially consider the situation. “If I drive up next to the building, it’s not going to take a genius for them to figure out who you are. But if you just walk in there from here like nothing’s happened, you can probably pull it off. Otherwise, I can take you Social Services. They might be able to find you a bed for the night. Assuming they’re not of a like mind as this group.”
“Oh, God,” Lin Sue groaned. “I really need to get home.”
“The officer may be right,” Jack suggested. “They shouldn’t be able to recognize us. I could walk up there with you… just like we’re coming home from a date. It might fool them.”
“I can keep my eyes on things from here,” the officer offered. “If there’s any trouble, I’ll come on the run.”
Jack looked at Lin Sue, who taking a deep breath, silently agreed. Jack got out of the car and helped Lin Sue out. The officer smiled encouragingly, and the two began to walk up the sidewalk. Jack put his arm around Lin Sue’s waist.
“We have to make this look good.”
“I don’t mind,” she replied.
Jack glanced at Lin Sue, who smiled back at him. Suddenly, he smiled back with an extra dollop of genuineness. Then Lin Sue leaned toward him just enough, kissing him on the cheek. She then quickly explained herself.
“We’re on a date, right?”
“Absolutely, “Jack replied with a grin. “I always take my first dates on really exotic and unusual adventures.”
“Do you have as much trouble taking them home?”
Jack could only smile.
As the two came within fifty yards of the people milling about, one older teenager turned to look them over. Then his eyes widened.
“Hey! There’s two of them now!”
The rest of the people turned to see, as Lin Sue stopped in her tracks and turned to see who the kid was talking about. Jack, as well, glanced back at where the police car was. The police car abruptly did a U-turn, and drove off in an apparent emergency.
“That son of a bitch! Is there another way into the building?”
The crowd, with the teenager trying to lead them, began approaching or just appraising the two newcomers.
Jack murmured. “I think maybe it’s time to run like hell.”
Lin Sue hesitated, and then turning to Jack gave him a strong slap across the face. She was sufficiently (apparently) indignant to have the sound of the slap reverberate off the nearby buildings. The sudden altercation abruptly stopped the crowd. Jack was still looking shocked, when the teenager again began pointing a finger at Jack and Lin Sue.
“I’m telling you, it’s them!”
The crowd may not have been convinced, but maintaining a vigil is never as much fun as investigating the latest lead. They began moving toward the two suspicious and usual suspects. Lin Sue turned to Jack, her hands on her hips.
“Follow me. I have an idea.”
Suddenly she turned and took off running down the street for all she was worth. Jack quickly followed suit, as the crowd suddenly heeding the teenager’s advice began to take off after them. The fugitives, for their part, sprinted for half a block before Lin Sue turned a corner and ran into a small restaurant.
Inside the restaurant/bar, the patrons were celebrating the end of another workday in typical fashion... getting sloshed. Without breaking stride and heading for the back door, Lin Sue and Jack dashed past them. Lin Sue clued the patrons in on their secret.
“Call nine one one!”
Before anyone could react to the nine eleven order, the faster runners from the mob came running into the restaurant. Lin Sue and Jack were already out the back door, while the mob was now faced with patrons who assumed that the bad guys were the late arrivals. Why else would the woman have yelled to call nine one one? The bad guys don’t typically call the cops. The slight delay was extremely helpful.
Within moments, Lin Sue had led Jack into a sparsely populated shopping complex, where they began to try and blend in with the crowd. A few of their pursuers also entered, but for a moment were perplexed by the lack of a clear quarry. Then a shopper suddenly took notice of Jack and Lin Sue.
“You two look familiar. Do I know…”
The shopper made it clear she had answered her own question when her mouth suddenly dropped open, her eyes mimicking an average size saucer.
Then… “My heavens. You two were on that jury!”
The teenager and the other pursuers reacted to the shopper’s cry of exclamation and began to run toward Lin Sue and Jack.
Jack cursed. “God, I hate being famous!”
“Shut up and run,” Lin Sue advised.
They took off running… again… and thankfully found themselves partially cut off by portions of the crowd on the one hand, and overly curious, easily converted bystanders on the other. In desperation, they ran for the main exit.
Outside, Jack and Lin Sue bolted across the street and began running down the opposite sidewalk. As the first of their pursuers exited the shopping complex, a large Ram Truck came roaring down the street, blasting its horn and causing the faster running pursuers to dodge the truck. The truck then roared to where Lin Sue and Jack were, and almost cut them off as it skidded to a halt on the sidewalk. Lin Sue and Jack came up short, and were about to duck inside another store, when Jack saw Henry Michel in the truck’s cab.
Henry yelled, throwing the passenger side door open, “Get in, fools!”
Jack grabbed Lin Sue’s arm – she had already opted for the sanctuary of the store – and re-aimed her toward the truck. Her eyes widened considerably as she saw Henry and then voluntarily leapt into the truck. Jack followed her into the cab. Henry floored the accelerator and took off down the street. The pursuers and their few meager tosses of rocks and bats were soon outdistanced. Henry’s truck skidded around the next corner, but then glancing in the rear view mirror, slowed down.
“And to think I missed out on a juror’s celebrity status. Darn!”
“It’s not quite delightful as you might imagine,” Lin Sue counseled
“Actually, it looks like hell.”
“How in the world did you just happen to come along at the right time?”
Henry smiled. “I’ve been watching since you got out of the police car. But I didn’t want to drive through that restaurant after you. Scratches the paint job.”
“I don’t understand,” Lin Sue confessed.
“Your names, addresses and photos are all over the Inner Net. They might as well have put out a reward for you… one undoubtedly reading: Dead or alive.”
Lin Sue was aghast – her astonishment typical of someone relatively inexperienced with the world. “The authorities told everyone where we...?”
“They’ll never be able to trace it. It just showed up on the Inner Net so that every self-styled vigilante could come after you. It’s not nice to fool mother establishment.”
“That’s unbelievable,” Lin Sue said. She had still not realized the age-old adage that: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free; but when you first learn the truth you’re really going to be surprised.”
“So how did you just happen to be outside Lin Sue’s place?”
Henry smiled his best broad smile. “Easy. Lin Sue’s a lot prettier than the rest of you. My including you in my knightly rescue of Lin Sue was just dumb luck on your part.”
For the first time in what seemed like a very long time, Lin Sue laughed. “You’re kidding!”
Henry shrugged his shoulders and continued to smile. “Plumstead, Damask and I kind of bonded after we got booted off the jury. You know the kind: brothers who had committed the same gross infraction. Plus we figured there was a fair chance of you guys going the way you did on the verdict. We also knew how far the media had gone in making a guilty verdict a foregone conclusion. Worse yet, the media were also catering to the more bloodthirsty members of the populace. So we began to make some contingency plans. Thena’s husband was a willing member of our little conspiracy, as were several others. So, basically, we covered everybody. Except for your wife, Jack. She’s a little strange. I hate to be the one to tell you, man, but I suspect she figured the market value of your story might increase if you met with foul play.”
Jack grimaced while Lin Sue looked at him sympathetically.
Still, he had to ask, “Where is she now?”
“If she’s smart… in hiding.”
“I don’t know. She’s always been a survivor. She’s probably at home.”
“Where I recommend you don’t go,” Henry suggested.
“I’m not a fugitive,” Jack argued.
Henry smiled. “Oh… really?”
Lin Sue smiled. “I know a place… if you don’t mind shacking up with a fugitive from injustice.”
“Gee,” Henry said, “Maybe I’ll become a fugitive myself.”
Jack smiled for a moment, looking at Lin Sue, while Henry watched the interchange (and mentally wrote off another small fantasy).
“You know,” Jack began, “telling the truth for me has always involved more than a few rationalizations on when, where, and under what circumstances telling the truth was the wise thing to do. But going through the last several days where telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was the critical element for… most anything… I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to practice telling the whole truth more often than not.”
No one interrupted. It was clear Jack was coming clean… It was never a nice thing to interrupt such a moment.
“The whole truth is that my marriage sucks, I have loved my wife for years, and as just been noted, she obviously has no interest in anything but my credit rating. Why I stayed as long as I have… well… I guess I do know: I didn’t want to walk away unless I had someplace to walk toward.”
Lin Sue blushed slightly. “Maybe even someone to walk with…?”
Jack smiled. “Which brings me to the next truth…”
“Uh,” Henry interrupted, “Did you guys want to be alone right now?”
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