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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A jury has been selected to hear a cold murder case from thirty-six years ago, resurrected by DNA testing.
Things get hairy when two jurors realize that they were present on the day and the night of Jemma Jefferson's murder.
And then things really get weird . . .

Submitted: September 08, 2016

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Submitted: September 08, 2016




A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Four


Now our courtroom was . . . was, well—I have never had any case that I’ve reported where you felt like you couldn’t breathe.

I realized, as I waited for Gail’s next question, that I was actually holding my breath. I think everybody else was too.

It was like we were inside a very small tent; all together, listening to a ghost story or some really scary adventure story. I think I was sitting on the edge of my special chair.

Suddenly, I felt as though I was alone, off to one side, and maybe up a few feet; but still in that confining tent.

And as I watched the still life group portrait of the jury and attorneys, the judge, Sally, Bob—and Mr. Sanderson, I thought they would never move again.

Like they had been frozen in place—in time; and the time was thirty-six years ago.


“In fact, Mr. Washington, you have been around the courthouse waiting to testify for about three days, is that not so?”


“And during that time; well, let me put it this way, sir. You approached me in the cafeteria three days ago and stopped and we had coffee, yes?”


“And during our conversation you were looking around the cafeteria and suddenly leaned in toward me and told me that you had seen not one, but two people who you were positive had come into your store on that Labor Day weekend thirty-six years ago, is that true?”


“And are you still positive that those two people were two people who came into your store the day of the night of the murder of Jemma Jefferson?”



Now everything but Gail’s and Mr. Washington’s lips—and my fingers—just stopped.

I felt as though no one in the courtroom would ever move again.

We were prisoners of a trick of the mind, where we were unable to move or to speak until Gail and Mr. Washington stopped asking and answering.

“And to the best of your knowledge, are either of those persons in the courthouse today?”

Judge Tan broke in, “Excuse me counsel,” turning to Mr. Washington, “excuse me Mr. Washington—Counsel, are you gong to be much longer; it is already twenty past the hour and we have had no break this morning; plus it’s lunch hour?”

“Yes, your honor; I believe Mr. Washington and I will be together for awhile.

“Very well then; we’ll take our lunch break now.

“Please be back by one thirty; well, plus twenty minutes—let’s make it one forty-five. "Good. See you then, and please remember the admonition.

"You are not to talk to anyone about this case and especially not any other jurors until the case is completed and has been submitted to you for your deliberations.

“Thank you. See you all at one forty-five.”

No one moved.

Then Judge Tan looked and saw that no one was getting up. She stopped moving herself while she took in this unusual scene. Now it was; like they—everyone; even Sally and Bob—were still spellbound—and waiting for the judge to snap them out of it.

Then Judge Tan abruptly sat down, picked up her gavel and slammed it very hard; two times.

“All right, jurors. You can leave. See you at one forty-five.”

Then she got up in a very funny way as though she was trying to wave herself at them to make them blink and come to.

All of a sudden, all the jurors began rising at once.

Except those two.

They sat with looks of anger and dread, directed at Mr.Washington, who did not even look in their direction after he got up and headed for the defense side of the counsel table to bend over and talk with Gail and Mr. Sanderson.

Those two jurors eventually got up and moved toward the courtroom doors. Funny; they didn’t even say a word to each other, and even appeared not to even know one another.


Once outside the courtroom, Allan Hamilton and Doctor PeterDavies went straight toward the windows that line the hall outside the three courtrooms.

Jurors from the other two courtrooms as well as courtroom personnel and maintenance workers, chattered and sidled by each other in competing streams of pedestrian traffic.

Allan and Peter took a step closer to the windows where they both immediately looked down on the red tile roofs of the Spanish Colonial complex of the county’s justice system.

They stood about three feet apart while they shifted their gaze to the upper part of the city that sat on the foothills of the jagged mountains, overlooking the ocean.

Without moving his head, Doctor Davies, “Je-sus Christ; you too eh?”

Hamilton continued to stare. “Yeah. I was there; in fact once Nevvy’s name came up all the little buried skeletons in my brain-closet began to open the door,” pausing while he gave a deep sigh, “I went to Nevvy’s a lot in the summer but I think only that one Labor Day weekend.” He pursed his lips and slowly shook his head.

Peter whispered as though to a priest during confession, “I had never been to Lake Balfort, but as soon as I saw Mr.Washington, it seemed to release the doors in my memory hard drive; and there I was.

"I had never met Wallman; just heard about him—and the Labor Day all-weekend parties. 

"JackMason asked me to come along. He had been to five or six of these bashes,” looking down the seven floors to the tailored grounds with their blazing blooms native to the coastal area, “but no one ever got murdered at one before.”

Allan Hamilton continued to stare at the mountains. “Yeah, me too.

"The minute Bill Washington walked into the courtroom I recognized him.

"I think just seeing him again after all these years time-warped my memories; and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by the smell of that hot dust in the parking lot; and the sweet smell of spilled sodas; cries of the babies and toddlers. Christ, I could go on for twenty minutes about that place on that day.

“It has all come back so vividly, like it was on film and now rolls across my mind’s eye.” He laughed. “And here I was being so goddamned conceited; thinking that the cops hadn’t done their jobs back then, and that I would have solved it for them, Ha! what a joke,” with bitterness, “now I could be a goddamned suspect.

“Shit, I don’t remember much of that night at all. might have been in that group—even both those groups that Mr.Washington told us about. I might have done all sorts of things; except murder.”

He fell silent while he considered his possible entanglement—somehow—in the resurrection of this awful event.

“Do you think we should tell the court about us being there that day—and  night, Allan?”

Peter Davies turned toward Hamilton in a beseeching posture. His entire body spoke to confession and supplication; wanting to be forgiven for whatever he may have done that night.

“Maybe we should tell the attorneys and then we won’t be unmasked before the jury . . . do you think they’ll keep us on the jury? What do you think, Allan?” Peter was near tears.

Allan turned toward him and clapped him smartly on the shoulder while he smiled, forced a chuckle and shook his head.

“How the hell should I know, Peter? "This situation has probably never come up in history; at least not in this county,” shaking his head while staring at his feet, “I just don’t know. But let’s talk about it over lunch; I’m starving; you?”

“Also Allan, let’s eat. Maybe some quick energy or a giant influx of carbs and sugars will kick our minds into a good gear.”

The two managed weak smiles at each other and followed a group headed for the elevators.

Once in the cafeteria with the chef’s special of the day, an excellent pasta with pesto, steaming in front of them, their color and their  good spirits returned and soon they were reviewing a list of possible ways to approach the problem of their presence near the scene  of a murder thirty-six years ago.

Over a tiramisu for desert and double espressos, they first marveled at the cuisine of the courthouse eatery and then decided to ask the Judge to see them in her chambers, tell her their story, and see what she wanted to do with them.

They both emphasized the point that they should not just sit there and have Bill Washington point them out like Burke and Hare, to be followed by the jury lynching them from the splendid chandelier that hovered over the bar of the courtroom as well as parts of the counsels’ table and chairs.  


End of Chapter Four 

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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