The Coin (Part 7)
Derek stepped quickly from the elevator in an attempt to elude Vanna but she took his elbow as if he was a gentleman escorting a lady. Vanna smiled smugly at everyone as they passed. She knew all eyes were on them and she wanted the whole office to know she was there. Whispers and gossip filled the void as Derek rushed onward.
He led her to his office, closed the door behind her, and offered her a chair. “Do I know you from somewhere?” he asked. “You look familiar.”
“Don’t you think you would remember if we had met? We’ll have time to discuss that later. Right now the clock is running and the thirty minutes I gave you is now down to twenty.” Her gaze was unwavering and Derek felt chills running up his spine.
He had to act fast. He didn’t even consider arguing with her. She sat there smugly as if she held the perfect cards and deep inside he knew she wasn’t bluffing. But the terrifying part was the understanding that she was backed by someone or something powerful, someone who could crush him in an instant. He needed more information. He would ask about that later, if he dared.
There weren’t many big offices that fit her specifications. The owner of the company had the biggest office. Derek, the CEO, had the most impressive one. Five large offices belonged to other important executives, and one smaller office which the owner’s son frequented. Derek had always considered the owner’s son to be an unnecessary appendage, someone who got in the way and impeded progress. Taking that office would mean war with the owner, but what else could Derek do?
Derek led Vanna to that small office, hoping to appease her. “I’ll have his things moved right away so you can move in.”
She took a quick glance around the room. “No, this room doesn’t satisfy my needs. I’ll tell you when I see the one I want.”
Derek was flustered. Vanna was being uncooperative. He would have liked to send her away. He didn’t want to be forced to do things but he had no choice. Something was making him do whatever she asked.
Derek and Vanna went from office to office, interrupting private conversations and meetings. He knew this was not how to run a business but at this moment everything was out of his control.
Beads of perspiration were on his forehead and Derek dabbed at them with a monogrammed handkerchief. All the rushing about and she had not claimed an office. He seemed puzzled at her silence and her reluctance to choose.
“Okay, now what? You’ve seen them all.”
“There’s one more you haven’t shown me.” Vanna had that intense look again.
“But that office is mine,” Derek sputtered. “You can’t have that one.”
Vanna smiled sweetly and said, “I only wanted to see it for comparison purposes. Now that you told me I can’t have it, I’ve changed my mind. It’s a woman’s prerogative.”
Reluctantly he led her down the hall, past the receptionist’s desk and through the doors with the large gold initials, D. G. He walked around a large desk and sat down ceremoniously. Seeing him seated in a position of power might calm her down. He leaned back in his chair and braced himself. “Who are you and what do you really want?” he snapped.
“Don’t you recognize me, Derek? We spent hours together. You tortured me endlessly and gave me no mercy. Didn’t you think I would find you? Or did you even care? You thought I was disposable. Easy to get rid of. I’m not going to be a victim any longer. It’s your turn now.”
Derek had a wild look in his eyes. The veins on his forehead bulged. His hands were opening and closing as he stared at her throat. Perhaps he could have made one quick move and his tormentor, Vanna, would be lying in a heap. Instead, his face violently contorted and his hands clutched his chest.
Derek pitched face forward and fell at Vanna’s feet. “Help me,” he pleaded. “I’m having a heart attack.”
Vanna went around his desk and sat in his chair. She looked out at the city below. “I would have enjoyed this view every day. It’s a pity it was wasted on you.”
She sat there a few seconds before she got up. She hesitated next to Derek, just in time to hear him gasp, “Please help me.” Vanna stooped down and whispered, “Revenge is sweet. You were just the first. There are three of your friends I still have to see.”
As she entered the elevator someone yelled, “Call 911! Mr. Goodman had a heart attack!” By the time she got to the ground floor the building was alive with people running in all directions. She tried to look concerned as she waited for the next bus.
At precisely at 12:05, the next bus pulled in. “I’m sorry, folks,” the driver said slowly, “I had to wait for all the emergency vehicles to clear the area. I guess somebody important died.”
He seemed impatient to make up lost time. Then he noticed Vanna, waiting on the steps, blocking the line of people. “What do you want, Miss?”
“Does this bus go by the Superior Court?” she asked sweetly.
(To be continued)
The Coin (Part 8)
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 nothing.
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 be seated.”
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 lead.
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 following day.
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 forgiven him.
(to be continued)