Excerpt from Solemnly Swear
I’d rather be flipping burgers.
It was an amazing thought considering Bobby Mann hated his burger job. He hadn't wanted to be selected for
a jury, but when he had, he’d tried to think positively about it. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. After all, he
loved watching “Law & Order” and “CSI” on TV. He loved the forensic stuff and the give and take of the
lawyers against the witnesses, especially when the lawyers made them break and tell stuff they didn't want
He hoped that would happen during this case—a murder case. The defendant, Patti McCoy, was a kitchen
worker at a local resort. She was accused of killing her boyfriend, Brett Lerner, the restaurant’s maitre d’,
while he sat in a hot tub in his backyard. She hit him over the head with a wine bottle. Allegedly hit him.
Or pushed him under. Or something.
The whole thing sounded pretty fishy, with good potential to hold Bobby’s interest.
But so far, it had been boring. If he was bored this bad on the first day...
He found himself admiring the courtroom. The room was probably built in the 1930’s when budgets allowed
craftsmen to paint the mural that swept the wall behind the judge: rolling hills and upright people, standing
together with their chins held high as they searched for justice. The budget had also included intricate
wrought iron chandeliers that hung from a tin-roofed ceiling. The windows were high, letting in light but
no view. There would be no distraction from the job at hand. At least not on their account.
But what impressed Bobby the most was the woodwork. The massive mountain of oak that raised the judge
on a level above the rest of them was set off by layers of fluted trim topped with carved corners. The
half-wall separating the lawyers from the spectators, and the jury from the rest of the courtroom, was
created with large curved spindles beneath a massive rail. I can make spindles like that on my lathe . . .
The chairs were also oak, yet were surprisingly comfortable because they had armrests and were designed to
curve around a person’s back. They were classic. Timeless. He made a quick sketch on his note pad.
Maybe this wouldn't be a total waste of time.
The prosecutor could have been hired by central casting. Abigail had seen his type in dozens of productions:
a striking man skirting the edge of handsome who made up for his lack of hunky looks through his commanding
manner, immaculate grooming, and impeccable taste. He wore an expensive coal-gray suit, white starched
shirt, cerulean blue tie, and polished oxfords.
Actually, the color of the tie was unexpected. The standard dress for a conservative man-in-power would have
dictated maroon. This flash of individuality piqued Abigail’s interest, making her pay more attention to the
man—and his words—rather than less.
She wouldn't doubt it. Lawyers were like that. Just as the ideal theatre set did not contain a single prop
that wasn't vital to the story, a savvy lawyer thought through every detail of his production—the trial.
Visual or audible, everything was taken into account in an attempt to predict a response. An outcome. A
verdict in their favor.
The prosecutor’s name was also in his favor: Jonathan Cummings. Very authoritative and persuasive. The man
wouldn't have had the same impact if his name had been Jon. Or especially John. What’s in a name?
Abigail looked at the defendant. Patti. With an i not a y. By the looks of her, Abigail guessed Patti signed
her name with a little heart to dot the i. It was hard to believe she was capable of murder.
And yet, by what Cummings was saying...
“... will prove that Patti Jo McCoy had both the motive and the opportunity to take the life of her lover,
Brett Lerner. Hers was a motive that is timeless and transcends all segments and sections of society.” He
paused in the middle of the courtroom and turned toward Patti, managing a look that conveyed both pity
and scorn. “Unmarried. Alone. She was carrying his child, with Brett, the unwilling father.”
Abigail looked at Patti, watching for her reaction. The girl didn't try to hide her condition by looking
ashamed; or ignore it by staring straight ahead. Patti put a hand on her abdomen.
Ah. A love child. If that tidbit of information had been in the news, Abigail had missed it. A love child and
the heel who wouldn't marry her.
Abigail knew she shouldn't jump to such conclusions before the case was made. And yet... life was revealed
in the details. One hand placed lovingly on one belly...
Cummings continued with a list of the evidence against little Patti: “The state will show through eye-witness
accounts that Ms. McCoy was at the murder scene. Through fingerprint evidence we will show she touched
the murder weapon. And we will reveal, through a neighbor’s testimony, that upon killing her lover, she
screamed in shock at her own actions. Overcome by guilt, she then ran away.”
Guilty as charged. Case closed. Can I go home now?
Abigail was shocked by how quickly these thoughts appeared. She’d always prided herself with having an
But also a logical one. If there was hard evidence...
Poor little thing. As it stood now, Patti Jo McCoy was toast.
Ken Doolittle pinched a piece of lint from his khakis and let it fall to the ground between his chair and the
chair of his fellow-juror, Jack, the car-guy. Jack slowly turned his head and watched it fall, then looked at
Ken as if he’d just witnessed something offensive.
Ken hoped their seating order wasn't set in stone because the thought of looking at Jack’s grease-stained
fingernails day after day... to tick Jack off, Ken plucked another—invisible—piece of lint from his pants and
let it fly between them. Bug off, buddy.
Ken realized he hadn't been listening to the defense attorney’s opening statement. Not that he was missing
much. Stan Stadler was no more impressive than his defendant. Ken would bet his Ping driver the man was a
public defender. Stan was a good hundred pounds overweight and carried the majority of the fat in front.
With no backside, he was constantly hitching up his pants, which balanced under his belly with gravity a
Stadler had made an attempt to slick his dark hair back, but it rebelled, leaving strays shooting from his head
at odd angles as if the wisps didn't want to be associated with this obvious bad hair day. And when the man
wasn't rescuing his pants, he was pushing his aviator-shaped glasses further up his nose—which was the only
skinny thing about him. Actually, when Ken thought about it, he realized the nose might be the only body part
not affected by fat. Interesting.
With a deep intake of breath, Stadler wound things up. “The defense will show that the defendant, Patti
McCoy, did not kill Brett Lerner.” With a nod to the jury, Stadler returned to his chair.
Patti looked hopeful.
Ken was not impressed.
Deidre Kelly was determined to soak in every word of the trial’s opening statements. Sig would want a
play-by-play that evening. When Deidre had been chosen for this particular trial... they’d both agreed it
was an amazing twist of fate.
She was glad the judge had said they could take notes because Deidre had trouble remembering three items
to get at the store without writing them down. She was no Abigail Buchanan—who seemed to be taking it all
in but wasn't writing down a thing.
The defendant, Patti, was a bitty thing who could have benefited from some beauty parlor expertise. There
was some natural beauty present, but with her minimal makeup, washed out lips, and dull hair pulled back in
a ponytail, Patti blended into the background, a prop as unremarkable as other items that occupied the
defendant’s table: as inconsequential as her lawyer’s briefcase, a manila folder, a yellow legal pad, or a
pitcher of water.
Patti’s job as a dishwasher at The Pines restaurant at the Country Comfort Resort and Spa was not a stretch.
Patti was someone Deidre would have glimpsed through the kitchen door without really looking at her, an
invisible service employee like those she’d come into contact with a hundred times. There, but not there.
Although Patti had not spoken aloud as yet (would she be allowed to testify?) Deidre guessed her voice would
be soft. “You’ll have to speak up, Ms. McCoy...”
Yes indeed. The girl would have to speak up if she was going to be acquitted of this murder charge. But if Patti
didn't take the rap, who would?
Deidre knew justice was occasionally fooled or interrupted, but it was rarely completely blocked. Justice was
The truth would come out.
Copyright 2014, Nancy Moser
Mustard Seed Press