فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

The Siesta Motel

On Monday night, Nicholas invited Jerry to go to a casino to celebrate their last hours of freedom. Jerry invited Sylvia Taylor-Tatum. They were becoming friendly - Sylvia was divorced for the second time, and Jerry would soon be divorced for the first.

Lonnie Shaver spent Monday night working. He contacted George Teaker at his home and explained that the jury was going to be sequestered and that the Judge had forbidden any direct phone calls to and from the motel. Teaker was sympathetic, and worried about the result of the trial.

“Our people in New York think a guilty verdict could really damage the economy, especially in our business.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Lonnie promised.

“You’ve got to help us, Lonnie. I know it’s difficult, but you’re there, know what I mean?”

“Sure, I understand. I’ll do what I can.”

Durwood Cable waited until almost nine on Monday evening to talk to Fitch.

“We were embarrassed in court this afternoon,” Cable said. “Who was the guy in the apartment?”

“He wasn’t one of my men. We have reason to believe that he was a goon employed by Rohr and his boys.”

“Can you prove it?”

“I don’t have to prove a damn thing. And I don’t have to answer any more questions. Your job is to win in court.”

“I rarely lose.”

Fitch went to the door. “I know. And you’re doing a fine job, Cable. You just need a little help from the outside.”


Nicholas arrived first with two gym bags filled with clothes. Lou Dell and Willis, a deputy, were waiting outside the jury room to collect the bags and store them. It was 8:20, Tuesday morning. “How do the bags get from here to the hotel?”

“We’ll take them over later,” Willis said, “but we have to inspect them first.”

“No one is inspecting these bags.”

“Judge’s orders,” said Lou Dell.

“I don’t care what the Judge has ordered. No one is inspecting my bags.” Nicholas placed them in a corner and walked to the coffeepot.

By 8:45, all twelve jurors were present and the room was full of baggage that Nicholas had rescued and stored. He’d done a fine job of making the jury feel really angry about the question of their baggage. At nine, Lou Dell knocked on the door.

“It’s time to go. The Judge is ready for you.”

“Tell the Judge we’re not coming out,” said Nicholas.

The courtroom was full on Tuesday morning, so many people witnessed Lou Dell whispering to the Judge. He wondered what to do. His jury was on strike!

The Judge addressed the court. “Gentlemen, there is a small problem with the jury. I need to speak to them.”

When the Judge knocked on the jury door, Nicholas opened it.

“Whats the problem?” asked the Judge.

“We don’t think it fair that the deputies search our bags.”

“Why not? It’s routine in all sequestration cases.”

“These are our personal possessions. We’re not terrorists or drug smugglers. We’re not coming out until you promise our bags will be left alone.”

“Fine,” replied the Judge. “The bags will not be searched. But if I find out that a juror possesses any item which is on the list I gave you yesterday, then that juror could be sent to jail. Do you understand?”

Easter looked round the room at the other jurors. “That’s fine, Judge,” he said. “But there’s one other problem. According to your rules here, we’re allowed one personal visit per week. We think we should get more.”

The Judge didn’t want to have a discussion about it. “Can we agree on two? It’s only a couple of weeks,” he asked.

“Two, with a possible third,” said Nicholas.

“That’s fine. Does that suit everybody?”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” Herman said loudly.

The jury were ready to enter the courtroom.

News of the break-in to Nicholas’s apartment affected the Pynex share price. On the Tuesday morning it started to fall. Then rumors started that the jury had refused to leave the jury room because the testimony offered by the plaintiff was so boring. The share price rose again.

The woman juror that Fitch wanted to influence most was Rikki Coleman. She was a pretty thirty-year-old mother of two. She worked as an administrator in a local hospital, and her husband was a private pilot. Neither of the Colemans smoked and there was no evidence that they drank. Because of her lifestyle, and her job in a hospital, Fitch was afraid of Rikki Coleman as a juror.

Fitch had managed to get hold of medical records for seven out of the twelve jurors, including those of Rikki Coleman. After some investigation, he discovered that while Rikki had been at a small Bible college in Montgomery, Alabama, she’d become pregnant, but had decided not to have the baby. The operation was carried out in a small private women’s hospital, a week after her twentieth birthday. The father wasn’t named.

Rikki had met her husband a year after she finished college. Fitch was willing to bet a lot of money that he didn’t know about Rikki’s pregnancy.


The motel was called the Siesta Motel and it was fifty kilometers along the Coast. The trip was made by bus. The jurors felt tired and lonely. Only Nicholas was delighted with sequestration, but he managed to look depressed. The bus was followed by Fitch’s boys and two detectives working for Rohr. No one expected the motel address to remain a secret.

The jurors were on the first floor of one wing of the motel. Lou Dell and Willis had rooms by the door leading to the main building. Another deputy, Chuck, had a room at the other end of the hallway. The rooms had been assigned by Judge Harkin himself. The motel TVs only showed hotel movies - no news or other programs - during sequestration. The telephones had been removed. A room at the end of the hall had been made into a sitting room for the jurors; it was quickly given the name of the Party Room. No one could leave the wing without authorization.

The following morning over breakfast, the complaints started.

“I don’t understand why we can’t have telephones,” Nicholas said.

“Why can’t we have a cold beer?” asked Jerry. “I have a cold beer every night when I’m at home, maybe two.”

The complaining increased until the jurors were ready to rebel.

“We’d better get things sorted out now,” said Nicholas seriously. “We’re going be here for two weeks, maybe three. I say we talk to Judge Harkin.”

Judge Harkin was in his chambers with the lawyers when Gloria Lane entered.

“We have another problem with the jury. They’re at the motel and they’re not coming until they can talk to you.”

The Judge gave a false smile. “Let’s go and see them.”


Konrad took the first call at 8:02. She didn’t want to talk to Fitch; she just wanted to leave a message that the jury were upset and not leaving the motel until the Judge had seen them. At 8:09, she called again and gave Konrad the information that Easter would be wearing a dark shirt over a brown T-shirt, and red socks. At 8:12 she called again and asked to speak to Fitch.

“Good morning, Fitch,” she said.

“Good morning, Marlee.”

“Do you know the St. Regis Hotel in New Orleans?”

“No.”

“It’s on Canal Street. There’s an open-air bar on the roof. Meet me there at seven tonight.”

Fine.

“And come alone. I’ll watch you enter the hotel, and if you bring friends, the meeting’s off. And if you attempt to trail me, I’ll disappear.”

Judge Harkin, Cable, and Rohr were met at the front desk of the motel by Lou Dell, who was scared. She led them to the Party Room.

After a few uncertain hellos, the Judge said, “I’m a little disturbed by this.”

Nicholas Easter replied, “We’re not in the mood to take any criticism.” He’d written down a list of their complaints. The Judge had to agree. Beer would be no problem. Newspapers would be allowed after they’d been checked. Phone calls were possible. Television was allowed, if they promised not to watch the local news. The Judge asked for a no-strike guarantee in the future, but Easter wouldn’t promise anything.

On the news of a second strike, Pynex shares moved down two points, but later recovered.


The St. Regis Hotel was watched by Fitch’s people from the afternoon, but there was no sign of the girl. Just before seven, Fitch went up in the elevator to the roof and sat down. Several of his people were there, at different tables.

At seven-thirty she appeared from nowhere. She was very pretty, and Fitch guessed her age to be between twenty-eight and thirty-two. The waiter asked if she wanted something to drink. He’d been bribed to remove anything she touched with her fingers - glasses, plates, anything. He wouldn’t get the chance. “Are you hungry?” Fitch asked.

“No. I’m in a hurry. If I stay, your goons can take more photos.”

“So why are we here?”

“One meeting leads to another.”

“And where do all the meetings lead us?”

“To a verdict.”

“For a fee, I’m sure.”

“Let’s not talk about money now, OK?”

They talked briefly about some of the jurors. Fitch found out little about Marlee’s real identity or her relationship with Nicholas Easter. As soon as Marlee had left, Fitch ordered his people to go after her. When she was nearly back home in Biloxi, Marlee told the police that she was being followed. Two of Fitch’s goons were arrested.

Later that evening, Nicholas slipped out of the motel and met Marlee, who told him all about her trip to New Orleans.


Wendall Rohr thought the court was tired of listening to scientists talk about lung cancer and smoking. So on Thursday morning he called Lawrence Krigler as his next witness. Lawrence Krigler had worked for Pynex. He’d left in the middle of a lawsuit with the company - he’d sued Pynex and they’d sued him - which had been settled out of court. While he was there, he did research on the possibility of growing an experimental tobacco leaf which contained much less nicotine. But the company wasn’t interested. Nicotine was addictive. More nicotine meant more smokers, which meant more sales and more profits.

It was an important moment in the trial. Everyone was listening carefully. Over lunch the jury were silent. Did they really hear right? Did tobacco companies keep nicotine levels high so people became addicted?

In the afternoon, Cable tried to introduce a lot of details into Krigler’s testimony, to confuse the jury. But during coffee, Nicholas explained to them what Cable was doing.

By the end of Thursday, the price of Pynex shares was down. Krigler was quickly flown out of Biloxi by Rohr’s security people. Pynex had paid him three hundred thousand dollars out of court just to get rid of him. They wanted him to agree never to testify in trials. He refused, and so his life would always be in danger.

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