Four huge impressive
pillars at the entrance of the Superior Court almost stopped Vanna from
entering the building. She passed people
in suits, men and women in police uniforms, and a variety of others in more
casual attire. She asked herself again, “What
am I doing here?”
She was not a risk
taker and had never wanted to be one.
She was just Vanna, daughter of a preacher, who made a habit of doing what
she was told. She had stayed out of
trouble all her life, was called an “over achiever” by her teachers, and made
the Dean’s list in college before she was forced to drop out in the middle of
her third year .
“Don’t get even. No revenge.” She could almost hear her father’s voice
admonishing her. “Your life should not be ruled by hatred or fear.” These words had been taken to heart but they
were high ideals in an imperfect world. Two months later he had been shot in
front of his church trying to thwart an attempted robbery. What good were his
words then? And where was God when that happened?
Vanna had been
disillusioned and angry, but kept her feelings tightly contained. She decided
she would take charge of her own destiny but her life continued to unravel. Two months later her mother died from a brain
tumor and Vanna dropped out of school, taking charge of her four younger
siblings. Her almost perfect life had
taken a nosedive into an abyss.
Jobs were scarce, but
Vanna found a job working as a maid. She
would rush to her job, rush home afterwards, and then help her sister and brothers
with their homework and listen to their personal problems. Vanna was overwhelmed by it all but she was
determined to keep them all together.
She thought they were doing well until she learned Karl, her 14 year old
brother, was hanging around the wrong group. She worried constantly, “ What could
she do to keep him out of trouble?”
Now as she moved about
the court building she had the sinking feeling she would be back, perhaps to
keep Karl out of jail. She wanted to turn and run but the coin was vibrating
against her breast, overriding any thoughts of slipping away. Her world had changed and now she had no
choice but complete her mission.
Several policemen stood
in front of one set of doors. They
admitted a few sharply tailored lawyers carrying briefcases and stacks of
papers. “Miss,” one of the policemen
said, “you’ll have to wait down the hall until it’s time to come in.”
Vanna didn’t need to
stop there because the coin was urging her on, up the stairs to the second
floor. She walked past the room
designated for the jury pool and noticed it was filled with people. Some were pleading with the clerk that they
had hardships and could not serve, others were sitting quietly, and there were a
few who seemed eager to be selected.
As the coin vibrated, Vanna sat down in an
empty seat and waited. A clerk held up a
paper and began reading a list of names. As their names were called, people got up and
headed to their assigned courtrooms. Vanna rose with the second group and
followed them down the hall and into a room.
When the group was seated the lawyers began
the selection process, which Vanna thought was ridiculous. She stifled a giggle as she imagined what the
lawyers might be thinking as they began dividing the group. “You take one and I’ll
take one, and we’ll find all the jurors who have emotional links to the victim
or the defendant and toss them out.” She straightened up and listened intently
when the prosecutor asked a young man, “If you believe the evidence leaves
doubt as to whether someone is guilty, could you vote for conviction?” “I
could,” he replied.
After the jurors and alternate jurors were
selected, the rest of the group was dismissed.
Since Vanna was only pretending to be a juror she went out into the
hallway. While she was at a vending machine she overheard the young man talking
in the hallway with another juror. “I’ll
vote “not guilty” if the rest of the jury decides against him. Women lie about being raped all the time.”
Outraged by his irresponsible statement,Vanna glared at him but still said
This seemed to be a
waste of time. The coin had not led her
to her attacker, nor given her any clear directions. Just when she was ready to give up, the coin
started humming and Vanna returned to the courtroom. The jury was seated, the lawyers were in
their respective places, and the bailiff was stationed. The bailiff said formally, “All rise while the
Honorable Judge enters.” A man in a
flowing black robe entered and sat behind the Bench. The bailiff faced the audience and said, “Please
Vanna looked around the
room searching for someone she recognized.
When she looked at the judge her heart began to pound wildly. He was one
of her attackers! She knew it even though she had no evidence to prove it. She stared again at the judge, expecting some
sign of recognition. The judge did not
notice her behavior or anyone else except for one. His gaze swept the courtroom
and rested on the jury, then on the young man in particular. A slight nod and then the judge declared the
court to be in session.
Vanna was shocked.”What
had just happened? Was the defendant going to be declared innocent because of a
judge that couldn’t be trusted? Indignantly she willed the coin into action, expectantly
waiting for the judge to topple over with a heart attack. Nothing happened. The coin was allowing justice to be trampled
on. Her anger rose quickly, and she almost stood up. “Kill him,” she
thought. “Kill him.”
A lifetime of inner restraint caught her in
time. “What was she doing?” The coin was
vibrating softly. Then she realized it was working against her! She glanced quickly around the room. A pair of black glittering eyes glared
menacingly at her. A cold shiver went up
her spine! Reggie! What was he doing here?
Her hate. His hate. A
battle was going on inside the courtroom without anyone knowing. They were mentally sparring, jab for jab,
blow for blow. No one was winning.
Reggie sat there grinning smugly knowing the coin still responded to
him. Vanna was furious yet contained. Suddenly she remembered one of her father’s
sermons. “The only thing that can conquer hate is love. Love is more powerful than hate. Don’t let
hate win. Love more and hate will flee.”
Love was not something
she wanted to think about. She wanted
justice and revenge, not love. But
slowly she focused her thoughts on her parents, her sister and brothers. She let her compassion flow to the rape
victim and then to the young man in the jury.
Reggie appeared confused. He rose
and hurried from the room. The judge,
seeing Reggie leave, tapped his gavel on the bench. “There will be a thirty minute recess,” he
announced. Then he disappeared into his chambers.
Vanna sat there with
her eyes closed, still thinking about people she cared about. When she thought about people who had
mistreated her, and how she forgave them, she could feel the coin’s power
growing. This time it was following her
The Honorable Judge Hudson
never returned to the bench. An
announcement was made after an hour that the judge was sick and a new judge
would be seated to take his place. The
jury was dismissed for the day but they were told they would reconvene the
Vanna waited outside
the court, wanting to get more information.
She thought she saw Judge Hudson rush away, almost as if he were
escaping inner demons. The coin hummed and
then fell silent for a moment. Vanna
hurried outside, trying to get one more glimpse of the judge.
Outside a crowd of
people were gathering by the street. Someone
called out, “Call 9-1-1”. Most of the
crowd appeared stunned and distraught. “He
just stepped in front of a taxi,” a woman wailed. “He didn’t even look at it.” Vanna knew it was the judge but wondered why
he had done this. She had already
(to be continued)