Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer
THE P.A. CRACKLED. “Would all those involved in the Lady Virginia Fenwick versus Mrs. Emma Clifton…”
“The jury must have reached a decision,” Trelford said, already on the move. He looked around to check that they were all following him, and bumped into someone. He apologized, but the young man didn’t look back. Sebastian held open the door to court number fourteen so his mother and her silk could resume their places in the front row.
Emma was too nervous to speak and, fearing the worst, kept glancing anxiously over her shoulder at Harry, who sat in the row behind her as they waited for the jury to appear.
When Mrs. Justice Lane entered the courtroom, everyone stood. She bowed before resuming her place in the high-backed red leather chair on the dais. Emma transferred her attention to the closed door beside the jury box. She didn’t have to wait long before it swung open, and the bailiff reappeared followed by his twelve disciples. They took their time finding their places, treading on each other’s toes like late-arriving theatregoers. The bailiff waited for them to settle before he banged his rod three times on the floor and shouted, “Will the foreman please rise.”
The foreman rose to his full five feet four inches and looked up at the judge. Mrs. Justice Lane leaned forward and said, “Have you reached a verdict on which you are all agreed?”
Emma thought her heart would stop beating as she waited for his reply.
“No, my lady.”
“Then have you reached a verdict on which you are agreed by a majority of at least ten to two?”
“We did, my lady,” said the foreman, “but unfortunately, at the last moment one of our number changed his mind, and we have been stuck on nine votes to three for the past hour. I am not convinced that will change, so once again I am seeking your guidance as to what we should do next.”
“Do you believe you could reach a majority of ten to two, if I gave you a little more time?”
“I do, my lady, because on one particular matter, all twelve of us are in agreement.”
“And what is that?”
“If we were allowed to know the contents of the letter Major Fisher wrote to Mr. Trelford before he committed suicide, we might well be able to come to a decision fairly quickly.”
Everybody’s eyes were fixed on the judge, except for Lady Virginia’s advocate, Sir Edward Makepeace, who was looking closely at Donald Trelford, Emma’s defense counsel. Either he was a formidable poker player or he simply didn’t want the jury to know what was in that letter.
Trelford rose from his place and reached into his inside pocket, only to find that the letter was no longer there. He looked across to the far side of the court, to see that Lady Virginia was smiling.
He returned her smile.
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