Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 11

Mr. Yates looked flustered with the judge’s decision. He took his seat and tapped his papers on the table before he asked another juror a different question. Mr. Deveraux tilted his head to look at me, his earlier disdain replaced with something I couldn’t decipher.

Their voices faded to a murmur as my hands began to shake in my lap. I couldn’t believe I’d stood up to Mr. Yates. What had gotten into me over the last month and a half?

After the attorneys asked their questions, we filed out of the courtroom and back into our original room while we waited to find out who made the final jury cut. Not that I had to worry. There were only sixteen of us left, but there was no way I’d make it into the pool of twelve and one alternate.

Neely Kate had been dismissed during questioning so I didn’t have her to distract me. Instead, I thought about Joe. I wondered what job he’d applied for, and guilt crept in. It didn’t seem fair that he would change his job to move closer to me and I wouldn’t even consider moving for him. But that wasn’t true. I had considered it, but every time I did, fear gripped me like a boa constrictor.

Thank goodness I planned to eat dinner at Violet’s house. I didn’t think I could face a night alone.

After about an hour, the bailiff stood at the entrance to the door. “Will the following jurors please gather your belongings and follow me: Five, Fourteen, twenty-two, twenty-nine, thirty-three…”

I stood in a daze. He’d called my number.

“The rest of you are dismissed.”

I stopped at Marjorie Grace’s desk on the way to the door. “I’m sorry, but I think there’s been a mistake. The bailiff called my number.”

“Oh no, honey, there was no mistake. If your number was called, then you’ve been selected for jury duty.”

My eyes widened in surprised and I slowly shook my head. “Oh, no. There’s no way they would have picked me.”

Marjorie Grace cast a glance at the departing group. “You better hurry along now. It wouldn’t do for you to be late twice now, would it?” She winked with a grin.

I hurried to catch up to the last of the jurors trailing out of the room. I had no idea how I’d been picked for jury duty, but somehow I knew it had something to do with the smirk Mr. Deveraux wore as he watched me leave the courtroom.

Chapter Four

Sandwiched between a large man on my right who smelled like he hadn’t showered since the Clinton administration—the governorship, not the presidency—and a grandmother on my left who reeked of arthritis cream and cat food, I resisted the urge to wave my hand in front of my face. The air conditioner was on the fritz and a stifling heat filled the room.

After the bailiff swore in the jurors, the judge addressed us with a stern look. “While hearing this case, jurors are not allowed to discuss anything about the trial to anyone. You are not to research the case in any way, including internet searches or visiting the crime scene. If you choose to disregard the rules, you can be found in contempt of court and can be subject to time in jail.”

More talk of going to jail. I never knew being on a jury could be so dangerous.

Mr. Deveraux paced in front of the juror’s box, his hands behind his back as he spoke. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead, his face lightly flushed. He’d shed his jacket, but his tie rested firmly against his throat.

Tired from the heat and another night of little sleep with Joe, my eyelids drooped. I concentrated on the steady tap of Mr. Deveraux’s fingers into his open palm.

“We cannot allow such a travesty!” he shouted.

Startled, I jumped in my seat.

He cast an irritated look my direction as he continued with his speech, telling us Mr. Decker was a menace to society. It was our duty to side with reason and keep Mr. Decker from hurting other unsuspecting citizens.

I studied Mr. Decker from the corner of my eye. He was skinny and on the short side. The tan lines on his neck and cheeks suggested that his neatly trimmed dark brown hair wasn’t his usual style. He fidgeted in his seat and his attorney scowled. Mr. Decker stopped and glanced up, catching my gaze. Between his pointy nose and tiny eyes, and the way the corner of his mouth twitched, he reminded me of a mouse. It was hard to imagine him murdering anyone.

Mr. Deveraux stopped pacing and he paused to look at each juror one by one. His eyes rested on me and quickly moved to the cat lady on my left.

“Your job is simple. Listen to the evidence and come to the logical conclusion.” His gaze stopped on my face.

Why was he staring at me?

“Thank you.” He returned to his table and picked up his papers, tapping them on the table as his assistant leaned over and whispered in his ear.

Mr. Yates stood and tugged on the lapels of his grey suit then adjusted his tie. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” He paced parallel to Mr. Deveraux’s path, as though he might be contaminated walking in the same route. “The state has circumstantial evidence linking my client to the crime. While Mr. Decker does have a criminal record, I will show the jury that nearly all of Mr. Decker’s previous arrests and convictions were minor offenses. My client does not have a history of violent crime, and is in fact, incapable of committing such an act.”

I knew I had to judge the case on the evidence presented, but I had to admit that I agreed with the defense attorney. Mr. Decker cautiously lifted his hand onto the table and touched the blank legal pad in front of him, as though he was scared of getting a paper cut.

When Mr. Yates sat down, the judge announced a recess, giving us an hour and a half lunch break. “And let’s hope they have the confounded air conditioning back on when we come back!” he bellowed.

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