|Chapter 13: Gloria's Fate
The short ride in the hotel elevator to drop off the last four jurors was always tense for most of the passengers. On the evening of November 2nd, it was tense for everyone.
For the deputy in the traditional brown uniform escorting them to the fourth floor, the idea of being involved in any way with the terrible thing Estelle Gidarb and Jack Fleetwood were trying to do to Blue Monday troubled him. Being this close to the people who would decide his fate without being able to influence them made it worse.
For the gray-haired, heavy-set, middle-aged woman between the lean, clean-shaven deputy and P.J. Shields, the source of tension was in back of her in the person of Vince Costello. The man had a stomach churning way with words that turned the simple truth into a complicated mental exercise. At the end of the day he had everybodys head swimming. Hed turned three of the five "guilty" voter into "not guilty" voters; the fourth was on the ropes. He even had her thinking about going along with him just to be done with it.
Gloria Castleman, the young, attractive, long-haired brunette standing next to Vince ached for the feel of the older mans muscular, naked body next to hers. It had been months since shed gone so long without the intimate company of a man. It had been years since shed been with one as handsome and powerfully built as Vince Costello. The way things were going in deliberations, she could lose her chance if she didnt act quickly. As it was, Vince paid more attention to P.J. than he did to her, though the way he looked at him was the way a fearless hunter would look at a snarling beast. She had been thinking of how to use that to her advantage. Looking at P.J. the way Vince did, she had her answer.
P.J. stood in front of Vince Costello as oblivious to the effect that his presence was having on him as a sensory deprived skunk. He was a man in great physical pain, a condition which tends to concentrate the mind on one thingrelief.
When the elevator door opened and P.J. scurried out with the gray-haired woman stalking out in his direction, the dark-haired woman held Vince back. She turned to him, cupping her hand to the side of her mouth and lifting up on her toes to whisper in his ear, "If I ever got caught alone with that man, Id die!"
Vince nodded, thinking that she was closer to being right than she knew. He whispered back. "Thats not going to happen, Gloria." With a change of perfume, another shade of lipstick and a lighter pair of shoes, she would have been absolutely right. Even under the closely guarded circumstances of their sequestration, Vince was afraid that P.J. would find a way to get a brown belt around her pretty neck. Riding the same elevator every day with a serial killer and a woman who came so close to fitting the description of his long string of victims, Vince, had pictured the brunette as his victim many times.
Gloria took his hand. She was trembling. She kept her voice so low to keep the deputy from hearing, that Vince could barely hear her.
"P.J. really scares me, Vince. I dont think I can sleep without somebody tonight...I mean...."
Vince knew Gloria as a woman given to saying things that could be taken two ways, one of which was sexual. They werent necessarily double-entendres, which is to say she didnt appear to do it intentionally, but she did it so frequently that one had to wonder.
"I mean," she continued. Im scared Would you..."
She and Vince shifted their eyes to the guards.
"I know nothing," said the guard who had been trying not to listen. "I see nothing...Just dont talk about the case, okay?"
"Thats a promise," said Vince for himself and Gloria as they walked in the opposite direction of the other two jurors. With Gloria reaching into her shoulder-slug purse for the card-key to her room, Vince looked back to see the smile on the guards face before the elevator door closed. It was all Vince could do to keep the smile off of his own face.
Gloria kept her eyes to the floor as they shuffled along around a corner and stopped at her door, wondering whether she should keep up the charade or come clean. No, she thought, remembering how much Vince valued truthfulness, that could really screw things up. Besides, its more exciting this way.
"He stares at me all the time," she said, as if Vince and most other healthy, heterosexual men didnt. "Ive complained to the deputies and the judge," she lied. "Nobodyll do anything."
Her hand was shaking too much to insert the card into the slot. Vince helped her. The door opened. She went in first and directed him past the bed where two cushioned chairs faced each other across a small, square table by the window.
Vince, with high hopes for the evening, strolled to the chair facing the entertainment center and sat down, while Gloria closed the door and headed for the refreshment cabinet next to the mid-sized T-window. The transparent top of her stylish secretarial business dress gave away the rapid swelling of her tan nipples. She blushed, turning her back to Vince to open the cabinet door.
"Its a little cold in here," she said as if the slight change in temperature could account for the change in her anatomy at the apex of her breasts. "What would you like to drink?"
"Got any red wine?"
"That depends," said Gloria, trying to sound kittenish and serious at the same time. "Do you have a license to drink it?"
Vince reached into the inside pocket of his sports coat and pulled out his wallet. "Ill show you mine," he said, lifting his eyebrows with a playful smile, "if you show me yours."
Gloria laughed. Looking over her shoulder, she said, "You dont have to show me anything. Ill take your word for it."
"No, no, no," insisted Vince, reaching into his wallet and extracting a clear plastic card with a full color hologram of his face in the upper left corner and the state crest in the center. "Heres mine. Wanna show me yours?"
"Im not sure," said Gloria, reaching up and over to where Vince could see her stroking the long neck of a wine bottle.
Vinces eyes bucked at the obvious symbolism, wondering whether it was intentional or not until she snatched her hand back a few seconds latter with a little yelp and blushed again. With her purse still slung over her shoulder, she pulled back the flap and started digging around inside. Vince had little doubt that she was buying time to compose herself. His only gentlemanly option was to let her do it.
"Here it is," she said. Without turning around, she held up her clear, plastic card with the full color state crest in the center. "Are you satisfied?"
"Not yet," said Vince, eyeing the womans generous, teardrop posterior, "but I have high hopes." Now that, he thought, is a class-A ass. Aarons daughter used to have one like that. I wonder if she had it changed when she got that stupid race-change operation. I sure hope not!
One thought led to another and Vince caught himself worrying about Aarons failure to get back in touch with him or to answer his calls. He couldnt remember the words, but he had the haunting impression that Aaron was supposed to beep him an hour or so after he rocketed out of the Balloon Ride VRS. Two days had passed since then without a word from his old friend. The son-of-a-bitch probably got sidetracked on some technical time track problem that nobody else would give a shit about and forgot all about me. He does that sometimes. The next time I see him...
Gloria stood beside him with a glass of white wine in one hand and a glass of red in the other. "Boy," she said, "you sure got lost in thought in a hurry."
Vince was taken aback by her sudden appearance by his side, but he didnt show it. "Should I ask what this is?" he asked, taking the delicate glass with the red wine.
"Not if you want to impress me with you knowledge of fine wine," smiled Gloria.
He took the glass, and held it to the light, then closed his eyes and passed it under his nose.
Gloria cocked her head to one side. "Do you know what youre doing?"
"No," said Vince, with a big grin.
They both laughed.
Gloria unslung her purse from her shoulder and sat down. "Its been so long since Ive talked to anybody one-on-one like this that I almost forgot how. For a minute there, I was afraid Id lost my charm."
Charm, as everyone knew, was a famous female comedian and porno queen whose name was synonymous with an illegal sex act which whores of the ancient world advertised by painting their lips. It was against the law in 46 states of modern America to so much as mention the act outside of a medical context or for the purpose of prosecuting the offender.
Glorias eyes widened. "But thats not why I wanted you to come here. I mean, I wanted you to comeI mean, thats not the only reason....Shit."
Vince tried mightily to hold back the laughter building up inside of him, then gave up and let it gush out, setting his glass on the table to keep from spilling it. He was glad to see that his hostess wasnt offended. Soon she was laughing as heartily as he was.
When they settled down enough to converse, she said, "I dont know whats the matter with me. My mouth is always getting me in trouble..." She rolled her eyes at Vinces jocular leer. "I mean...."
"You mean," he said, "Youre dying to kiss me."
What a sweet guy! thought Gloria, knowing that he knew exactly what shed meantand that she hadnt meant to say itor had she?
"Well," she teased, "you are kinda cute."
"Vince frowned. "Babies and monkeys are cute."
"So are you."
Vince wrinkled his nose. "I did?"
"That depends," purred Gloria, "on whether or not you intend to take advantage of me."
She licked her lips lasciviously, and snickered. "Definitely..."
After willfully, imaginatively and enthusiastically violating section 12, paragraph 5 of the Michigan Sodomy Act on four counts, the couple showered together and happily violated the law on two more counts. That is to say, they gave each other pleasure in a manner deemed "patently offensive" to the forgotten members of a forgotten Michigan legislature and most of the people who voted for them. The jurors stepping out of the shower didnt know that Jack and Kimberly Fleetwood had broken some of the same laws they had, but they wouldnt have been surprised. When all bathroom sex was outlawed in Michigan, the thrill of being outlaws became an irresistible temptation and a powerful aphrodisiac to the citizenry at large. It did not seem likely to Vince and Gloria that it would have been otherwise for the states top cop.
Vince and Gloria were toweling each other dry when the telewindow in the main room turned itself on with the ambient sound of white noise which always prefaced a juror alert. They froze in terror.
Busted! thought Vince in the old Army vernacular. The motherfuckers set us up!
At any moment he expected to hear the voice of the ranking court deputy informing him and Gloria that they were under arrest. For them, it would be bad. For Monday, it would be a disaster. As all of the jurors knew only too well, in a case like Mondays where the circumstances of his arrest demanded a presumption of guilt, any outcome of the trial short of a twelve to nothing acquittal, was as good as a conviction.
Vince had never been as close to panic in his life, not even in combatexcept, perhaps, for that time when he was caught in a friendly-fire artillery barrage with no place to hide.
Gloria latched onto his arm with one hand and with the other, she held the top of her long bath towel to her navel in a white-knuckle fist. To hide his fear-etched face from the woman holding on to him for protection, Vince leaned his head out of the bathroom door as if to hear better.
The white noise stopped.
A chime sounded three times.
Judge Kakowskis commanding voice announced, "Due to circumstances beyond the courts control, all jurors in the case of the People of the State of Michigan vs. Blueford Monday are forthwith dismissed. Your service was greatly appreciated. Thank you. This court is now adjourned."
All that had been fear for Vince and Gloria was now bewilderment.
Vince dropped the towel and staggered out of the bathroom in a daze.
"Whats going on?" demanded Gloria, stepping into the main room with Vince while tucking her bath towel securely around her waist.
"Beats me," said Vince, retrieving his wrist-ban computer and his earplug receiver from the dresser. "Call the desk while I get dressed. If this means what I think it does, I might have some tailing to do."
"Tailing?" said Gloria, searching for a light pen as she spoke and he stepped into his shorts. "As in, following somebodylike a cop would follow somebody? Are you a cop?"
"No, but I could be the only guy standing between the Brown Belt Strangler and his next victim."
Gloria found the light pen. "Talk sense," she said testily, as angry with herself for doing what he told her to do as she was with him for telling her to do it. Why didnt he make the call while she got dressed? Had she suddenly become less of a person because shed allowed him to have sex with her? What was it with men, anyway?
She pointed the light pen at the monitor and opened a window to the court deputys station.
For the next few minutes, Vince, Gloria and the deputy in the window who had been with them in the elevator, engaged in a chaotic, 3-way conversation which escalated rapidly to a shouting match. Vince tried to tell his story while Gloria tried to get the judges story from the deputy. The deputy tried to explain that he didnt have it. They talked over each other and past each other, with all three in constant motion. Four other jurors cut in on the deputy who struggled vainly to answer all of them in the same way.
In the end, the deputy learned only that the jurors were angry and fearful that their dismissal would mean the Gidarbing of Blue Monday. Gloria learned that Vince was a nut-case with crazier ideas about P.J. Shields than she had thought. Vince learned that one could not pack a ten pound ration of truth into a five ounce sack of time.
"Im going back to my room and pack," said Vince, pulling his sports coat over his shoulders. But first, Im gonna see what P.J. is up to."
"Do what you want," pouted Gloria, who hadnt bothered to dress. "Im not going anywhere until Judge Kakowski calls us together and explains what happened."
"Gloria, it aint gonna happen that way. He already called us together though the T-window and gave us all the explanation hes gonna give. Court is adjured for good. He practically told us to go home."
"Practically!" screeched Gloria, pouncing on the word as if it were a dangerous prison inmate tying to escape to the outside in a laundry basket. "Practically means that he didnt do it."
"I dont have time to argue," said Vince. He opened the door. "Call me," he said.
"Gloria scowled and turned her head to the T-window.
Vince said, "Ill call you."
Gloria stretched across the bed with her back to the door and picked up her multi-function wristband computer. She clipped it on and, almost in the same motion, dialed up the volume on her jade penguin earlobe receivers. Then she sat up straight with her legs folded under her and stared into the telewindow as if she were performing a mystic ritual that would make the man in the doorway disappear.
When she turned her head to see if the magic had worked, she saw that it had.
Damn! she thought....
Meanwhile, P.J. Shields was moaning on his hands and knees between the bathroom and the closet doors, brought low by the pain in his head. It was as if a sadistic being from an unseen dimension had reached inside of his skull with a pair of pliers to squeeze the center of pain in his brain. He rocked back and fourth in tears, the top of his head almost hitting the door to the hallway with each forward thrust.
The attack was no more intense than usual, but it was setting an unendurable record for duration. It had begun during the deliberations and lasted through the elevator ride and a court announcement of some kind in his hotel room telewindow. P.J. had absorbed little of the judges message in his tortured state.
With the extended pain spell came a crisis of confidence. He had once been sure that God had put him and the dark-haired slut in the same hotelon the same floor, for a reason. Now, he wasnt even sure if she was the kind of woman he thought she wasif the perfume he thought was hers was actually being worn by someone else. He wasnt sure if her subtle sexual advances were, indeed sexual advances. He was beginning to wonder if he had been wrong about her and what he had prepared so long and well to do.
"Father," he cried to the heavens, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
He didnt know why the words of Jesus on the cross had come to him. Perhaps it was a sign from Jesus himself. He needed a sigm of conformation. He prayed to God for one.
A moment later, the pain in his head abated. A sheet of yellow paper with two, short, type-written paragraphs and Judge Kakowskis bold blue signature was pushed under the door, right under his eyes. There has to be a connection, he thought, knowing that he would have been in no condition to read the note if the pain had not subsided.
The first paragraph was a verbatim transcription of what the judge had announced earlier in the telewindow broadcast. The second consisted of a single sentence informing, or assuring, the jurors that a presumption of guilt could not be applied because the entire question of Mondays fate had been, "...rendered moot by events external to the pertinent facts in the case."
P.J.s thoughts turned to Glorias fate. It all depended on whether or not she opened the door for him and what she was wearing when she did. He couldnt impose his idea of who she was on her and then kill her. Only a lunatic would do such a thing. If she was already wearing another kind of perfume, the bottle he carried would be of no use. If she had on decent shoes, the ones in his case that he knew would fit, would never be put on. If God intended for her to live, He would not allow all of those things to happen. If the Good Lord did allow all of those things to happen, who was P.J. Shields to resist the will of God?
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison