The Juror


By George Dawes Green

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Annie Laird is Juror 224. A sculptor with a career going nowhere. A single mother struggling to raise a son. A good citizen who has been summoned to what looks like a rountine tour of civic duty. But the trial she is called to serve on is no ordinary trial. It is a mob trial, whose outcome has been meticulously orchestrated by a man of insidious power and deadly precision. A man who lives by the teachings of Lao Tsu…whose magnetism is irresistible…whose mind is as brilliant as it is twisted. He is know to some as the Teacher, and he’s set his sights on Annie Laird.

Pulled into the most chilling depths of the criminal underworld, Annie will be seduced by double-edged promises, stalked by the spector of terror, then, finally, driven to a shocking decision by the most basic motivation a woman can know. THE JUROR is a tour de force of crime and obsession, evil and innocence — a story that taps into fears so primal they linger long after the last page has been read.



Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from "The Gulf" from The Gulf by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1970 by Derek Walcott.

Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Grateful acknowledgment is also made to Faber and Faber Ltd. for permission to quote from "The Gulf" from Collected Poems 1948–1984 by Derek Walcott.

Publisher's Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1995 by Moth to a Flame, Inc.

Reading Group Guide Copyright © 2009 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Excerpt from Ravens Copyright © 2009 by George Dawes Green

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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ISBN: 978-0-446-56201-0


The Caveman's Valentine



A legion of kindly guides…

Glenn Brazil, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, counseled me in surveillance and eavesdropping techniques. Jim Koster reviewed the arsenal. Bob Stapleton, retired Senior Investigator for the New York State Troopers, helped me to stalk the Teacher.

Among those who advised me in aspects of criminal court procedure were my old friend Tony Maccarini; Jim Rooney, Chief Assistant District Attorney for Putnam County, New York; Judge John Sweeney, Jr., Putnam County Court Judge; Stephen Saracco, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney; George Buchhert of the Orange County Sheriff's Department; and Judge Ronald Adams of Glynn County, Georgia.

Medical advice came from Dr. Amy Gelfand, Dr. Kirk Hochstetler, and Marland Dulaney, the Sage of Pharmacology.

My choice of birds and moths and operas was influenced by the uncanny erudition of Julio de la Torre. Tim Groover and Rick Hood tended the orchids, Susann Craig the costumes. Angela Tribelli helped me with the Italian, Leo Iterregui the Spanish, and Margo Dannemiller the Mam. Alex Mason provided the dragons. Other abettors include Timothy Horan, Ann Clark, Joel Ettinger, Thalia Broudy, Julia Carson, and Crystal Chamberlain.

Finally, a few of the Most Exalted Seraphs of Divinity in this writer's addled brain. My agent Molly Friedrich and her colleague Sheri Holman, who were not afraid of the Caveman. My editor Jamie Raab, who brought us in from the Y-ray wilderness. And all those who provided sustaining love: Drew and Ellen and Paula and Daniel and Larry and Nancy and Keith, and the crew at Wanda's, and the hard-rockin, breathtaking Kellie Parr.

Words don't work here.


Varnish, putty, char, clay, moss Fur, wax, turpentine, ink, cedar

EDDIE, in the spectators' gallery, leans forward. Prospective Juror 224 has just said something that he couldn't hear. That in fact nobody in this courtroom could hear. Judge Wietzel asks her to move the mike closer.

Juror 224 takes the neck of the mike and pulls it up to her. Then gives it a quick choke. Strong rough scratched-up farmwife hands she's got—they don't match the rest of her. They don't match her gentle gray eyes, which now sweep softly across the courtroom, and light upon the defendant, Louie Boffano.

She says, "I don't think so. No:"

"Are you sure?" says Judge Wietzel. "You've never seen Mr. Boffano? In the newspapers? On TV?"

"No sir."

Wietzel casts her a withering look. "Do you read newspapers, ma'am?"

This gets him a chuckle from his toadies up front. Fuckin Wietzel, thinks Eddie. Shit on toast he thinks he is. That look he's giving the juror. The arrogant way he flicks his gavel to quiet the laughter.

But Juror 224 doesn't rattle. She says softly, "I read the paper when I have the time."

"How often is that?"


Eddie likes this woman. Kind of weary-looking, but she takes no crap from Wietzel, and Eddie likes the way those big gray eyes slide along sort of slow and then suddenly pounce on something—as though there were lots of wonderful things to catch sight of in this courtroom. Though as far as Eddie can see it's just the usual floating courtroom sewage.

She tells the court, "I'm a single mother, Your Honor. And I'm trying to be a sculptor? I have, well, just a job in the day, and when I get home I take care of my son. Then at night, at night with whatever time I've got left I work on my pieces. I mean it's tough to find any free time. I feel ignorant saying I don't keep up with the news, but that's how it is, I don't. I don't have time."

She must come from some other planet, thinks Eddie. From some place where they've all got eyes like that, and they all work hard and take care of their little boys and make art at night, take out their chisels and make sculptures for Christ sake—until one day one of them gets in her rocketship and comes halfway across the universe and lands here in this pit of shit and doesn't even know enough to be scared.

I mean here she is, Eddie thinks, surrounded by all these vipers in three-piece silk suits, by barracuda whose hearts run on grease, who would tear her apart with their teeth if someone gave them the word—and she just blinks those big gray eyes at them and that's it—that's her whole defense, take it or leave it.

But Wietzel frowns at her. "Ma'am, you're saying you've heard nothing about this case?"

224 turns and lifts her eyes to him.

"Well, no. I have heard… something."

"And would you share that with us?"

"Yesterday I told my son I was going to be on jury duty today. So I might not be able to pick him up. I mean when I usually do. And he said, 'Hey, Mom, maybe you'll get on that big Mafia case.' And I said, 'What big Mafia case?' And he said, 'You know, Louie Boffano—they're gonna try him for popping these guys.'"

Rising swell of greasy laughter from the gallery.

Eddie checks on his boss. Louie Boffano's back is to the gallery. All Eddie can see of him is a sliver of cheek. But that sliver fattens out some, and Eddie figures that Louie's flashing one of his famous devil-damn-me grins at the prospective juror.

But she doesn't seem to notice. She plows right on. She says:

"My son told me that popping was, when you pop somebody, that's the same as killing them. And I said, 'OK, I got that, but who's Louie Boffano?' And he said I was really dumb not to know. I said, 'OK, I'm really dumb. Who is he?' He said, 'Mom, come on—he's the big Spaghetti-O.'"

Wietzel gets his gavel going pretty quick, but it sounds like a drummer's rimshots after a comic has landed a stinger. The laughter resounds. The lawyers, the media assholes, the gawkers—all that scum is in bliss. Wietzel himself is having a wrestling match with his lips, trying to pin them down. And at the defendant's table, Eddie's boss is roaring. He's got his head thrown back so far you can see his face upside down. He wants us all to see what a good time he's having. To see the sumptuous pleasure Louie Boffano draws from being called the Big Spaghetti-O.

The only one not laughing is Juror 224 herself. Her gray gaze is still drifting around the room, and drinking up the scene, and what plays on her face now, Eddie thinks, is not amusement, it's pride. She's simply proud of her kid's cleverness. Sort of the way Eddie himself felt that time last year when his daughter won Honorable Mention in Domestic Science at Mamaroneck High.

Wietzel pounds down the uproar. "If we have any more of these outbursts," he says, "I'm giving you all fair warning, I will not hesitate to clear this court."

Oh Wietzel, thinks Eddie. You'll never clear this court. You crave an audience every bit as much as Louie Boffano does. I mean if we were having a food fight in here, if we were all mooning each other, still it would break your heart to clear the court. So stick your bullshit back up your ass where it belongs.

When at last the judge gets the gloomy pindrop silence he's waiting for, he asks, "Do you think that what your son told you will influence your verdict in this case?"


"No prejudice for or against the defendant?"

"My son is twelve years old, Your Honor."

Eddie glances at the prosecutor's table. Michael Tallow, the DA for Westchester County, is whispering to one of his pawns.

Eddie sees him lift one shoulder just a notch.

Sort of a shrug.

It means he'll take her. Christ.

Nine murder trials out of ten, a white single mother from Westchester, that'd spell acquittal. And an artist? That'd put it in caps. And that goofy South American handbag she's carrying? Ah, Jesus, that'd put it in whimpering yellow on a big white flag of surrender: PLEASE, YOUR HONOR, OH PLEASE LET THE POOR OPPRESSED MR. SPAGHETTI-O GO FREE.

Nine cases out of ten, the DA wouldn't go anywhere near the bleeding heart of a babe like this.

But this is a mob trial.

This is one time Tallow will be looking for weepers. For anybody old-fashioned enough to think a syndicate hit is still murder, and not just an unpleasantness among hoodlums. For anybody who might actually bemoan the passing of that gutter-rat Salvadore Riggio and his spoiled grandson, anyone sucker enough to shed a tear when the guy's widow takes the stand and the gnashing of teeth begins.

Tallow's assistant nods back at him—the slightest nod.

It's done then: they'll take 224.

Which pisses Eddie off. He likes this alien. Stupid, but there it is. He doesn't see why she should have to swim in this slime. So what if there was once a little bad blood between Louie Boffano and Salvadore Riggio, what the hell does that have to do with her? Why not let her go home to her kid and her art and her own little workaday worries?

Why should those great gray eyes be obliged to absorb this pollution?

Let her go.

And by God Wietzel seems to hear Eddie's silent plea. For once in his life Wietzel does something fair and just and good. He looks down upon 224 from his high altar and he says, "You may be excused, ma'am. If you like."

A silly grin starts to go up on Eddie's face.

The judge goes on, "I'll try to keep this trial short, but I'm sure it will last several weeks at the least. And during deliberations, you will be sequestered. This court is well aware that a trial of this nature can present unreasonable hardships for some jurors. You've told us that you're a single mother, that your economic situation is somewhat strained. That's enough for me. If you say it would present a grave hardship for you to serve on this jury—I'll excuse you."

Why, Wietzel! You know, Wietzel, I was looking forward to erasing your ugly bucket face someday—but now maybe I won't. On account of this little rag of mercy you've extended to my sweet 224.

But 224 isn't getting up and going. She's still sitting there. She has her eyes lowered, and clearly she's thinking this over. Thinking hard.

Oh Christ. Get out of here now.

She looks up and asks the judge, "If I did serve, would I, um, would I be safe?"

Wietzel frowns. Seems surprised himself that she isn't scurrying on her way, but he collects himself and says, "Of course. You'll be perfectly safe. In fact, let me say again that no juror has ever been harmed in a trial in Westchester County. That doesn't mean that we won't take precautions. For example, although I don't think it's necessary to sequester you throughout the trial, I have instructed that all the jurors are to be driven to and from this courthouse daily from some location known only to yourselves and your driver. Your anonymity will be treasured here. No one will know your name. I won't even know your name. But I will always be available to you. And in the event that anyone does try to influence your verdict on this case, you have only to say a word to me, in private, in my chambers, and those persons will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law. So in this regard you can feel perfectly secure."

Oh, bite me, Eddie thinks.

Wietzel, you son of a stinking turd, bite me.

Juror 224 is thoughtfully pursing her lips, and her alien gray eyes are glimmering and she says, "Well, then, then I think I could get someone to take care of my son. For when I'm sequestered."

"And you would like to serve?"

"Um. Yes. I would. Yes."

It dawns on Eddie that here we've got the dumbest woman ever to walk the face of the earth.

Says Wietzel, "I commend you for your good citizenship, and I ask that you return tomorrow for further examination by the prosecution and by counsel for the defense. Thank you, you're excused for now."

Juror 224 rises. She seems exhausted. It hasn't been easy for her, arriving at that noble bonehead resolution. She's confused and doesn't know which way to go. The bailiff beckons her, and she follows him. She's a small woman. Her walk is plain but with a wisp of a wobble. A holdover maybe from when she was a kid trying to act like a starlet. Or maybe she's just unsteady from sitting around all day waiting to be called.

Whichever, that walk gets to Eddie.

He watches her go, watches the nice flip side of that wobble.

And then he sees Louie Boffano turn. Just for an instant, to glance at someone sitting way over on the other side of the spectators' gallery.

Louie Boffano has his lower lip tucked under his teeth. It's as thoughtful a look as you'll ever get out of the guy. He wants someone back there to see that look.

Then he looks away again. And no one knows that Louie has flashed a sign with that glance.

It's OK by me if that's the one you want. She's yours.

Eddie swivels his head.

The man Louie was signaling to is all the way back near the corner of the gallery. Surrounded by trial freaks, a nobody. He wears a bland turtleneck and moony tinted glasses and a furry fake blond mustache. He has no presence at all. He's gazing at nothing. At vapors. He looks to be lost in what you'd guess—if you didn't know Vincent the way Eddie knows him—were the most trivial and commonplace of thoughts.

Suddenly he gets up.

Eddie glares at his own fist in his lap and he thinks, OK then you brain-dead bitch, this is what you wanted? OK you got it. Who's going to help you now?

When he looks back, the space where Vincent was sitting is now empty.

Eddie silently counts to twenty. Then he rises and pushes his way down the row of spectators out to the aisle. He keeps his head low, and he nods to the guard and pushes open the huge door, and he leaves the courtroom. He passes quickly through the ugly jagged-edge Buck-Rogers lobby.

He goes to do what he's paid to do.

ANNIE sits in the old Subaru and waits on her son Oliver, who's studying the buckle of his seat belt. He's always studying things. He stares too long at even the simplest tasks before he gets down to work. Sometimes he'll stare so long he forgets what he's supposed to be doing.

Dreamland. He drives her crazy.

"Oliver. Let's go."

He gets the belt snapped in.

She backs out of Mrs. Kolodny's driveway and turns onto Ratner Avenue.

"Hey guess what," she says. "You were a star today."

"Bull. I was the zero kid today. You know where Jesse is on DragonRider? Fifth Dome—he did it last night. I can't get into the Second Dome without some Troll-Slave clobbering my ass. Jesse and Larry say I'm a retard 'cause I can't find the Invisible Potion."

"Maybe the Invisible Potion is in the Fallen Keep?"

"Wrong again," says Oliver. "Larry says it's in the Western Shire. The freakin Western Shire."

"Maybe Nintendo's not your forte and you should concentrate on something else."

"It's not Nintendo, Mom. It's Sega."

"Maybe you should take up some other specialty. Like school-work."

"Yeah, right," he says. "No doubt."

"Or maybe Jesse's trying to throw you off the track. Maybe there isn't any Invisible Potion."

"The kid's a lying weasel all right."

"You shouldn't say that about your friends."

"No doubt."

They come to the lake and take a left on Old Willow Avenue. They pass the town library, which used to be a chapel. Autumn's starting to take hold. Jolts of rust and ruby in the sycamores along the lake.

Oliver pulls from his pocket a piece of Booger Bubblegum. He stares at the wrapper. Unwraps it. Studies the wad. Pops it in his mouth.

"Anyway," she tells him, "you were the star today. Star of the county court. They asked me if I'd ever heard of Louie Boffano and I told them my son had called him the big Spaghetti-O and that got a big laugh."

"Wow. You're really on that case?"

"If they take me."

They pass Cardi's Funeral Home.

"And you're going to do it? You're gonna be a juror on that case? Are you nuts, Mom?"

Good question.

There was that moment, on the stand, when she was on the verge of asking the judge if she might be excused, considering she's got a son to raise and a boss who's threatening to lynch her if she doesn't get out of jury duty. Plus a show going on at Inez's gallery for her sculpture.

Then, when she said she'd do it, everyone must have figured her for a lunatic. That's how she figures it herself. What other conclusion can she draw?

"I don't know," she says. "Well, you know it wasn't just the old godfather who got killed. They got his grandson too. Fourteen years old. I guess I was thinking about you. I guess I thought it was my duty. I'm always telling you about being responsible and all. Right?"


"You see what I'm saying?"


"Well OK, you want the truth? Maybe I thought it'd be exciting. I think I'm getting a little worn out with the grind. I mean… it really wasn't such a bright idea, was it?"

"Mom, is this for real? You're on the Louie Boffano trial? Wait'll Jesse hears this."

"No. Jesse's not hearing nothing. Neither is anyone else. I mean I shouldn't have told you. Listen, Oliver, it's a secret that I'm a juror on this case. Nobody knows my name. Not even the judge. They call me by a number. I'm completely anonymous—you know what that means?"

"Sure, it means they won't put your picture in the Weekly World News. That won't stop Louie Boffano. If he wants to find you—"

"Oh quit it. He wouldn't dare. They've got a word for that, you know, it's called tampering. You know what would happen to him if he were caught tampering with a juror?"


"He'd go to jail."

"But he's already in jail. Probably for the rest of his life. So what's he got to lose?"

"Oliver. This is serious. This isn't a game. The reason I'm a lunatic to do this isn't because it's dangerous—it's not. It's just that it's such a nuisance. Mr. Slivey's going to kill me for taking the time from work. And when the TV's on I'll have to be careful that I don't see anything about the trial. And anything in the Reporter Dispatch? You'll have to cut it out so I don't see it."

"But you never read the paper anyway, Mom."

"I know, but still."

"You just wrap things in it."

"I just want to be sure. You know? And when the trial's over and we start to deliberate, I'll be sequestered. Means I'll have to stay in a motel for a while. You'll have to stay with Mrs. Kolodny."

Oliver nearly chokes on his gum. "Mrs. Kolodny? You mean overnight? Mom, tell me you're kidding."

"I tell you I'm not kidding. Yes, overnight. More than one night."

"How long?"

"Don't know. However long it takes to reach a verdict. Maybe a week. Or, I don't know."

"A week? Why? You go out, you come back in, you say 'Guilty.' You say, 'Fry the sucker.' How long can that take?"

"I don't know."

"Six seconds?"

"Maybe. Or maybe a week."

"A week with Mrs. Kolodny? Momba, why are you doing this to me?"

Annie shrugs.

The road forks and she takes Seminary Lane up the hill away from the lake. A pair of big three-story Queen Anne elephants to the right, with a view to the water. On the left are homelier cottages. She slows and turns at their own small bungalow. She tells Oliver, "OK, you got two minutes to change your clothes, then I'm taking you to work with me."

"Mom!" Panicky whine. "I'm supposed to meet Jesse at the churchyard—"

"Can't help you. I promised Mr. Slivey. Got to post some orders, that's all. Only an hour or so—"

"Mom, in an hour it'll be dark. Jeez, I trashed the whole freakin afternoon at Mrs. Kolodny's and now you tell me—"

"Two minutes, you miserable little snot. Hustle."

THE TEACHER waits in the red Lotus S4. He's got Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso in A Minor coming over the Magnus. He's parked on a side street, which runs into Seminary Lane two hundred yards ahead of him. His car sits under a linden tree, under a razor-blue sky. He has the speaker turned up on the cellular phone, and his friend at DMV is telling him:

"License JXA-385 is registered to an Annie Laird. Address: 48 Seminary Lane, Pharaoh, New York. Anything else?"

The Teacher speaks above the violins. "This woman has a son. He's twelve years old, I presume he's in elementary school or middle school somewhere around here. Could you find out something about him?"

"I can try."

"Don't push, don't force it. Drop it if you can't finesse it."

Skirl of wind. Leaf-shadow trembling on the red hood before him. A girl sails past on her bike. Liquid-limbed, maybe sixteen. Her near haunch is piston-straight as she coasts past. She seems to admire his red car. Am I too conspicuous, he wonders, in such a vivid red Lotus on such a plain street? Am I taking unnecessary risks?

I am, yes.

He whistles along with the flute.

The cellular phone buzzes, and he touches the panel.


Eddie's voice: "Vincent. She's coming out of her house now."

"With her child?"

"Yeah. With."

"They don't see you?"

"No. I'm parked way down. OK, they're getting in her car."

"Careful. I think she sounded somewhat frightened in court today. She might be looking for a tail. If she comes your way—"

"She's not gonna. She's going up your way, Vincent—and she's in a fuckin hurry."

"Up the hill?"


"Get on her, Eddie."


"But give her plenty of room. If you lose her, that's no tragedy, we'll pick her up some other time—but don't let her spot you."

Then the Teacher waits.

A moment later, he sees Annie Laird's car blur by, on Seminary Lane. Only one glimpse of her. Her worn-at-the-edges loveliness.

Next, Eddie's car passes by.

The Teacher pulls out, but he doesn't follow them. He drives the other way, back down the hill. To his right a few houses, then a long stand of woods, and then he comes to her rusted mailbox. He eases up, his eyes prowling.


On Sale
Jun 24, 2009
Page Count
448 pages

George Dawes Green

About the Author

George Dawes Green is a highly acclaimed novelist and poet. He currently divides his time between Georgia and New York.

Learn more about this author