Stan Breckshire's right shoulder throbbed. The pain crept up his
neck to the base of his skull and all the way down to his fingers.
Great. His pinched nerve was cheerleading another touchdown, and
the game hadn't even begun. Rah, rah, pretrial stress; let's give Stan
In the prosecutor's seat behind the counsel table, Stan held his
arm out from his side, rotating it at the elbow. Then rubbed the pressure
point in his neck. Not even through with jury selection yet, and
just look at him. Today's panel of potential jurors had been the lousiest
he'd ever seen, and apparently the worst was yet to come in the
search for the second and final alternate.
The courtroom door opened behind Stan. He resisted the urge
to look back, although both defense attorneys did so. With such
pleasant faces, he might add. Stan worked to keep his own expression
as pleasant as possible. He was well aware of the twelve jury
members and first alternate already seated in the jury box, watching
the attorneys' moves with morbid curiosity.
"Come on in, folks," Judge Carol Chanson greeted the last two
stragglers as a bailiff led them in. "I know it's been a long day for you.
If you'll have a seat at the end of the first row in the jury box, I'll
explain how we might need you."
Stan's eyes darted to the two people taking their seats. One very
impatient-looking man. And a knockout of a woman in her mid-thirties.
Shoulder-length, cinnamon-colored hair and matching eyes.
Clear skin and a trim figure, well fitted into an expensive-looking
green silk shirt and off-white, belted pants. She fairly oozed grace and
intelligence. Stan's heart sank.
Chelsea Adams looked even worse than he'd imagined.
Quickly he shuffled papers before him. Anything to keep from
staring at her. He wondered if T. C., as he privately called lead
defense attorney Terrance Clyde, or his sidekick, Erica Salvador, had
any hint of who this woman was. As fate would have it, the defense
shared the same sinking boat with Stan-they'd used the last of their
preemptory challenges allotted for alternates. Stan almost smirked.
Nice little irony to their demanding a change of venue. Monterey
County had its share of eccentrics, but it would have had to work
mighty hard to spit out a sample the likes of this woman.
Knowing T. C., he'd probably used one of the minions on his fat
payroll to run a check on the names of summoned people as soon
as the attorneys received their lists that morning. All by his lonesome,
Stan had wheedled help from a gum-snapping secretary in
the district attorney's office. With rolling eyes, she'd finally agreed
to check his list against the criminal clerk's records, finding out
which people had previously served on a jury. But of course that's
not how he'd heard the stuff on Chelsea Adams. Rather it was the I-know-something-you-don't-know
look on the face of some deputy
D.A. he'd run into during break just fifteen minutes ago. Someone
in county records had noticed an infamous name on the list and had
said something to her coworker, who'd said something to someone
else, who'd run into said deputy D.A. during lunch hour.
As in every county, gossip was alive and well within the courthouse
walls. Stan had heard an earful and reentered the courtroom
with rising panic.
Stan rubbed his arm, wincing. So what? At the very worst, the
woman would only be second and final alternate. If she got past his
questioning at all, which she wouldn't.
Judge Chanson slid on her gold-rimmed reading glasses and, for
the benefit of the newly arrived, began to read the complaint against
the defendant. That in The People vs. Welk, Darren Wayne Welk was
charged with second-degree murder under Penal Code Section 187,
yada, yada. Stan forced his eyes to the judge, barely hearing her
words. Not that he needed to. He'd heard them at least two dozen
times since that morning, every time a new batch of potential jurors
had entered the courtroom.
"Okay." Judge Chanson exchanged one paper for another, her
glasses still perched on her nose. The ends were attached to a purple
chain around her ample neck. Her salt-and-pepper hair was cut
short, leaving nothing to frame her double chin. "First we have Greg
Seecham. Mr. Breckshire?"
You're my boy, Greg, thought Stan as he pushed back from the
table, automatically pulling his tie. He hustled to the podium that
faced the jury, making eye contact with Mr. Seecham. "Good afternoon."
The guy looked almost too good to be true. A yuppie white
businessman, every prosecutor's dream. Brown hair perfectly coifed;
the drawn, beleaguered face of stressful success; and a designer
suit-right down to the magenta power tie. Stan knew that yuppies
tended to fear crime, be fiercely protective of their property, and
usually hadn't suffered enough to be sympathetic to some defendant.
Unfortunately, the man also brimmed with impatience, obviously
not happy at missing a full day at the office. Stan opened his
mouth to begin questioning, hoping against hope that Seecham
wouldn't claim work hardship.
"Your Honor, I have a real problem with staying." Seecham
addressed the judge as if Stan weren't there. "Since I received my
summons, things have now changed at my start-up software company,
and I'm the only one there who can ."
Uh-uh, too late for a sob story. It was the end of the day and everyone
was tired. Besides, these two were it for the panel. No one
wanted to wait for another group to be called.
"Let's talk about this, Mr. Seecham," Stan pushed in before the
judge could reply. "Court usually ends around five o'clock, and this
case is only expected to take about two weeks. Can you manage to
work in the evenings just for that long?"
"No way; that's not enough time!" the man replied, as if the mere
thought were ludicrous.
"Well, is there a coworker who can fill in for you?"
"No. As I said, I'm the only one who knows how to run the
"And the staff can't do without you for just a few days? Surely
you have a cell phone. You could check in during breaks."
Seecham's face compressed. "I can't run the office from a courtroom.
We're right in the middle of some very important projects,
and I have to be there all day."
"Could you possibly-"
"Mr. Seecham," Judge Chanson cut in, her tone betraying impatience.
She leaned forward, puffing herself out over her cherry wood
desk as if to intimidate Mr. Irreplaceable with her very size. "I know
this is a difficult time for you. But jury duty is what it says-a duty
that should be fulfilled if at all possible."
"I understand that, but for me it isn't possible. Not at this time."
Greg Seecham began ticking off manicured fingers like a scolding
young parent. "First of all, we've run into problems with the software
program we were supposed to launch last week. Every day we
take to fix those problems, we lose an estimated $267,000. Second,
another program ."
Stan Breckshire hung on to the podium, right arm throbbing, as
Greg Seecham fired every shot from his company's heavy artillery. The
man started quoting numbers right and left-amounts of dollars his
company would lose on this project and that one. All with multiple
zeros. And of course they weren't just his dollars; they were theinvestors' dollars, blather, blather. His boy or not, Stan wanted to wrap
his hands around the man's starch-collared neck and choke him silly.
"All right, Mr. Seecham," the judge intoned, pulling off her
glasses, "we get the picture." She sat back in her large black leather
chair with a sigh. "Mr. Clyde, anything you want to add here?"
"Well, Your Honor," T. C. said without rising, his baritone voice
oozing empathy, "I think we should let Mr. Seecham go. Clearly, he
has a work hardship issue that simply can't be overcome."
Well, thought Stan, there was his answer. T. C. hadn't a clue who
Chelsea Adams was.
"I'm not so convinced of that." The judge fingered the chain on
her glasses, eyeing Greg Seecham. "A company of this apparent size
is certainly maintained by more than one person. I think-"
"I don't even see why this defendant needs a trial," Seecham
growled suddenly, casting a purposeful glance at the jurors down his
row. "He's obviously guilty."
"Your Honor!" T. C. protested, half-rising from his seat. He
shook his gray, craggy head at the judge as if to say, "What more do
Judge Chanson narrowed hard eyes at Seecham. Her wide jaw set
and her chest swelled with air. Stan cringed. Seecham's gig was obvious
enough, but Stan knew the judge couldn't give him a chance for
further prejudicial statements in the presence of the jury. Even if the
other members were giving him looks of pure derision. Seecham
stared back at the judge with a spit in the Constitution's eye. Stan
could have punched the guy. He hoped Greg Seecham's software
company bit the dust. And gagged on it.
Judge Chanson arched back in her chair, still staring daggers.
"You are excused, Mr. Seecham." Her words were clipped. Seecham
darted from his seat, slithered past the knees of Chelsea Adams, and
made for the door. Judge Chanson lodged her glasses on her nose
just so and busied herself with papers, her eyes flicking up to aim
one last knife at Mr. Yuppie's fast departing back.
The courtroom door closed. The judge took a cleansing breath.
"All right," she announced tiredly, then checked her list. "Chelsea
Stan Breckshire's heart fell to his toes. Greg Seecham's trail still
slimed the courtroom floor, and now he needed to convince Judge
Chanson to excuse the last juror for cause.
No problem, Stan rallied himself. He'd produce enough cause,
"Good afternoon, Ms. Adams." Stan bobbed his head, lips pulling
back for a brief moment. The faces of his peers back in Monterey
County flashed like neon before him. He could just imagine their
head-shaking upon hearing he'd let this babe on his jury. Could just
hear his nemesis Harry Kent blabbing it up, feigned sympathy on
his face and a jingle in his step. And Stan wouldn't be around to
Well, no matter, because he wasn't about to let that happen. No
way, no how. Whatever it took, Stan Breckshire was going to get the
religious lunatic named Chelsea Adams out of his jury box.
Chelsea sat straight-backed in the padded jury chair, keenly aware
of her surroundings. Every color, every scent, seemed to flood her
senses. She at least was glad they were in a different courtroom, and
even on a different floor, from last year. That one would have held far
too many memories. This courtroom, 2H, was on the second floor,
while the Trent Park case had taken place on the fourth.
Darren Welk . second-degree murder.
The judge's voice still whirled in Chelsea's head. A case not even
from her county, and of all people she was sitting in the jury box.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Adams." The attorney standing before her
looked to be in his mid-thirties, slight in build and short. His nose
was large and hooked, his eyes small and dark. Chelsea braced herself
as she watched him move with quick, nervous motions. She was
sure he'd recognized her name. It was in the hunch of his shoulders,
the unnecessary shuffle of his papers. Wariness crept through her.
"Good afternoon," she replied. She kept her voice level, casting a
glance at the judge. The woman was studying her a little too intently.
"My name is Stan Breckshire." The prosecuting attorney bobbed
his head again. "As you heard some minutes ago, I'm from Monterey
County. This case has been moved here to the San Mateo County
courts in what we call a change of venue. Let me first ask you, do
you know anyone involved in this case?"
"I don't think so."
"Recognize anyone in the courtroom?"
Chelsea allowed her gaze to drift once more to the faces she'd
noticed upon entering. Behind Stan Breckshire sat two sophisticated-looking
defense attorneys, a gray-haired man who was probably in
his early sixties and a young Hispanic woman. On the far side of the
room two sheriffs, one male and one female, hunched on opposite
sides of a battered desk, looking bored. A court reporter sat below
the judge's raised platform at the top center of the room, repeating
every word into the large, cupped microphone of her machine.
Chelsea knew that the large computer monitor before the judge
would immediately display her record of the proceedings. Another
woman-the courtroom clerk-occupied a second desk near the
judge, also with a computer.
"No," Chelsea replied.
"Okay. How about this case? Have you heard about it?"
"Yes, some. I've read about it in the newspaper and have seen
some segments on the news." Her voice seemed so loud. Did she
sound too forceful? Nervous?
"I see. Have these news stories led you to form an opinion as to
the defendant's guilt or innocence?"
"No, not at all." Chelsea realized the words were too quick,
springing truthfully from her past experiences. Hardly the words
that would see her excused.
The attorney thumbed the corner of his notes. "You say that with
Heat prickled Chelsea's scalp. "Yes. I mean, guilt or innocence is
something that has to be proved in court. I really couldn't know just
from the media."
"So you haven't heard anything in the reports that would prejudice
you in any way regarding the guilt or innocence of this
Chelsea shook her head. "No."
"Okay." The prosecutor paused, as if pondering his next question.
His thumb picked up speed, riffling his papers in earnest. Irritation
poked at Chelsea. Why couldn't he just come out with it? Get
this foreboding discussion over with so she finally could be excused.
She'd waited all day in the jury room, when she could have spent
precious time with her husband, Paul, before he left on his business
trip to England. And she still wanted to get some errands done
before picking up her niece at the airport after her flight from
Kansas. Kerra's arrival time was approaching all too soon.
"Ms. Adams," Breckshire said, obviously feigning ignorance,
"have you ever been involved in a criminal trial before?"
Chelsea took a deep breath. Here it came. "Yes."
The attorney's face remained impassive. "Would you tell me
about it, please?"
"I'll try." Chelsea hesitated, forming her words carefully. "I know
it's hard for people to understand. It's hard for me to understand.
But sometimes I'm able to 'see' things in my mind. The best words
for describing this are probably 'seeing a vision.'"
The attorney nodded, urging her on.
"Last summer I had a vision about a murder. I didn't know who
had been murdered or when, but I became sure it had happened in
Trent Park in Haverlon. After a lot of deliberating, I went to the