Solemnly Swear

Solemnly Swear

5.0 2
by Nancy Moser
     
 

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Justice isn’t always blind.

Patti McCoy is on trial for killing her boyfriend, Brett Lerner, a maître d’ at the restaurant where Patti worked. But was she simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

It’s up to the members of the jury to decide. Among the twelve, there’s Ken, a has-been golf pro; Abigail, a once-famous actress way

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Overview

Justice isn’t always blind.

Patti McCoy is on trial for killing her boyfriend, Brett Lerner, a maître d’ at the restaurant where Patti worked. But was she simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

It’s up to the members of the jury to decide. Among the twelve, there’s Ken, a has-been golf pro; Abigail, a once-famous actress way past her prime; Bobby, a financially struggling family man; and Deidre, the socialite wife of a prominent doctor. All have prejudices that taint how they view justice. What they don’t know is that more than one life hangs on their decision. . . .

During the trial, Patti McCoy isn’t the only one who has to deal with innocence and guilt.

Or judgment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At the heart of this absorbing, Grishamesque Christian novel by Christy Award-winner Moser (Time Lottery) are four Branson, Mo., residents who are chosen to serve on a jury hearing a manslaughter case. Bobby is a young husband and father, working three minimum-wage jobs and deferring his dream of becoming a professional woodworker; Abigail is a has-been actress; Ken is a middle-aged, divorced golf pro always on the prowl for a one-night stand; and Deidre is the wife of a prominent surgeon, Sigmund Kelly. In the course of the trial, each of the four learns powerful life lessons, but this is not merely a feel-good inspirational read. It is also well-paced and suspenseful: early on, it becomes clear that Deidre and her husband have a deep investment in the outcome of the trial. Readers will be eager to discover the Kellys' secret and will also want to learn whether the divided jury is able to reach a verdict. The subplots about the jurors' personal lives-is Sig having an affair? will Ken reconcile with his son?-add another hook. Still, the book isn't perfect. The prologue, which spotlights the killing, is forgettable and confusing rather than intriguing, while the requisite religious awakenings of several of the characters feel forced and largely superfluous. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781414301631
Publisher:
Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
12/14/2007
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

Solemnly Swear


By NANCY MOSER

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Nancy Moser
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-0163-1


Chapter One

Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right, for there is a time and a way for everything, even when a person is in trouble. ECCLESIASTES 8:5-6

Abigail Buchanan?"

"Here."

Abigail stood without pushing on the arms of the chair. She forced herself to walk faster than her normal gait. She willed her spine to be as straight as it was fifty years earlier when she'd gone on her first audition.

Being an out-of-work actress who was over seventy was the pits. Actually, the pits had started at age forty when leading roles had started to fade into character parts. The first time she'd played the lead's mother instead of playing the lead had been a wake-up call. Welcome to reality.

The young woman who'd called her name held the door. Not a wrinkle in her dewy soft skin. Abigail hated when people made statements such as, "I've earned my wrinkles. I'm proud of each and every one."

Pooh. Such declarations were the pitiful rationalization of a person consumed with panic, a person resorting to any kind of desperate validation they could muster. Abigail stood by her original statement: getting old was the pits.

Personally, although she hated wrinkles as much as the next woman, she'd never succumbed to the knife, mostly because plastic surgery had been a touch and go procedure back when she'd first been tempted. Seeing one of her actress friends end up with a mouth as tight and wide as Donald Duck's had also been instrumental in her decision to wing it.

Yet she had tried every face cream, wrinkle reducer, scrub, and gimmick that promised to bar time at the door. It didn't take long to realize that those creams-when and if they worked-only offered time a coffee break. Time was relentless and insisted on getting back to work. Crummy job too, making days turn into months turn into years that made a person old.

Bummer.

"Stand over there," the sweet young thing said, indicating the space directly in front of two seated men who held Abigail's future in their hands.

She smiled, "Afternoon, gentlemen."

A nod. "You're Abigail Buchanan...."

There was the slightest indication he'd heard of her. "That's me. Star of Winsome Girl on Broadway and The Jackie Daniels Show on TV."

The other man looked confused. She could go on to explain that she'd won the Winsome Girl role away from Mary Martin and had earned a full-time role on Jackie through the depth and breadth of her talent, but she had the feeling her explanation would gain her another blank stare.

"It says here you were on Friends once."

"Those kids were so sweet." Kids. I shouldn't have called them kids. Yet it was obvious by the men's appreciative nods that an appearance on Friends overrode dozens of more important performances in the too-distant past. "I also did twelve commercials as the Ivory Soap lady...."

The first man-who had one of those annoying little shocks of hair in the cleft of his chin-said, "You look older in person."

You charmer you. She didn't react.

Chin Hair sighed as if he'd already decided this was a supreme waste of time. He waved a hand at the girl. "Give her the script."

If Abigail had participated in a paying job in the past nine months, she might have tossed the pages back at him, saying something trite (but satisfying) like "I don't need this!" But since her rent was due and she really would like to eat something besides four-for-a-dollar mac and cheese for dinner, she took the pages and did her best.

When she was done, they didn't even confer. Chin Hair merely said, "We'll be in touch" and Cutie Pie popped out of her chair to show Abigail the door.

Don't call us; we'll call you.

At times like this, Abigail grieved divorcing her husband back in 1958. Not because she missed him (what was his name again?) nor because she thought they should have stayed together. But having him around would have at least given her the possibility of companionship. The whole marriage experience had soured her to commitment and she'd never found another mate-marriageable mate, that is. As a result she'd never had children-which would have also provided her with some company in her old age.

There it was again. Old age. Nasty devil.

As it was, she had to bear her disappointment regarding not getting the part alone. She was used to it, but that didn't mean she liked it. Once she'd entered the golden years (a dull yellow if you asked her) she'd found her bounce-back ability a huge bit wanting. And when she talked to her friends about wanting to work, they always made her feel moronic. "What are you thinking? Enjoy your retirement, Abigail."

Doing what? With what? And with whom?

"Stop it!" she snapped at the traitorous thoughts.

Alas, the empty elevator did not respond.

But it did offer a nice reverberation to her anger....

Smiling wickedly, she said the words again, yelled them within the confines of the moving box, and added a few more for emphasis: "Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Abigail Buchanan!"

She imagined her words rising up the elevator shaft and ricocheting off the ears of some poor cuss waiting on the eighth floor with a cheek numb from Novocain.

Maybe she shouldn't have said her name.

As the elevator doors opened on one, she laughed. What did it matter if people heard her name?

As always, they'd forget it soon enough.

* * *

Abigail used her key to get the mail in the tiny foyer of her ancient apartment building-which had, at one time, been a stately Victorian home.

Looking through the mail, she realized how pitiful her life had become that she could get excited about offers for credit cards she didn't want, vinyl siding she didn't need, and cruises she couldn't afford.

C'est la vie.

She was disappointed there weren't any of the just-listed items but only a gas bill and a letter from some government agency. She shoved both into her shoulder bag and started up the stairs to her attic apartment. When she'd first gotten this place fifteen years earlier, she'd thought the stairs would keep her young.

Very funny.

The good thing about the stairs was that they were on the inside of the building and owned the essence of stately-somewhere beneath the countless coats of paint that covered what surely was oak or walnut paneling. A shame. A crying, dying shame. Though in theory maybe some thick coats of paint would keep her working too....

She traversed the second floor landing and walked to the end of the hall, where a small door led to her own private, winding stairs, so narrow that, out of habit and for support, she put her hands on either side, letting the grime of the day transfer to an existing swath of dark against the white paint. She should clean it. One of these days. It's not like she didn't have time.

The stairs winded her, so after retrieving the letters from her purse, she fell into the mauve Queen Anne chair that really should be re-covered into some with-it color. If she cared.

Which she didn't.

She tossed the gas bill to the floor and zeroed in on the official-looking letter. Within moments, she sat up straight, fueled with a new energy.

Abigail kissed the letter. They wanted her to be a juror on a trial? Now there was a part she'd always wanted to play.

* * *

Ken Doolittle heard the water running in the master bath. It took him a moment to put a name to the person in the bathroom.

Loretta.

Lorena?

Since he couldn't remember for sure, he decided to keep his eyes closed and pretend he was still asleep. No need for poignant good-byes. At age fifty-five, poignant had never been in his vocabulary. Or his game plan. As if he had one. One that worked anyway.

The water stopped and he heard the light being flipped off. The woman rustled through her purse and Ken nearly opened his eyes to see what she was doing....

But then he sensed her presence close. The scent of newly applied floral perfume wafted over him. Then footsteps. Away. On the stairs. He held his breath waiting for the front door to-

Click.

Ah. Safe.

The sounds of a car pulling away gave him permission to sit up. He saw a note on the pillow next to him: Thanks.

He stared at the note. That was it? Thanks? Not You were wonderful. Call me. Not even just Call me.

They always said Call me.

Well, usually.

Sometimes.

He glanced at the clock. One-thirty. In the afternoon? The light streaming in the window was his answer. At least Lor-whatever had stuck around. Of course they hadn't gotten to his house until nearly five in the a.m. part of the day. He'd met her at a bar where she waitressed. When she had gotten off work at two they grabbed something to eat, then went back to his house to ... grab each other.

Ken sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the bed. He moved his head carefully, testing to see if a hangover was in the cards.

Free from that burden, he found his terry robe thrown over the chair by the window, the robe he'd bought on a whim at a golf resort in Arizona ten years ago. As he tied the belt around his thickening waist he noticed there was a red stain across the front of it.

Then he remembered. Wine. But not from last night. Wine from a little tête-à-tête he'd had last week. Another pickup in a bar. Another woman.

He really should wash it.

One of these days.

He traipsed downstairs in search of coffee. And oatmeal would be good. Oatmeal was supposed to regulate his cholesterol. It was kind of late for breakfast, but Ken had long ago given up trying to adhere to regular hours. And who really cared? As long as he got to the Marlborough Country Club in time to give his private golf lessons his hours and diet were his business.

Ken turned the coffeepot on and put a bowl of instant oatmeal in the microwave. While he waited he perused the mail he'd tossed on the counter. Two days worth. At least.

Junk, junk, bill, coupon, bill, advertising ...

What was this? A letter from the district court. His mind scanned any infraction they might be writing to him about. Parking tickets? That one DUI?

No. Those had been taken care of eons ago.

He opened the letter. Jury duty? What do you know? He never would have guessed....

He read the letter with interest-and glee.

Women would be impressed by jury duty ... especially if he got assigned to some scandalous trial. This might be fun.

* * *

Deidre Kelly sat in the principal's office with her twelve-year- old daughter beside her.

Crying beside her.

"This is not acceptable," Deidre told the principal. "Nelly should not have to endure the abuse of a bully." She turned to Nelly's PE teacher, who stood near the door. "Where were you during all this?"

"I have thirty students to watch, not just Nelly," Ms. Hollings said.

"Are you telling me this has never happened before, to another child?"

"I'm afraid we can't say," the principal said. "A student's records are private and-"

"There was nothing private about Damon knocking Nelly to the ground and putting his foot on her arm."

She nearly caught Ms. Hollings in a shrug. "He's being disciplined."

The principal closed a file on her desk. "I assure you, Mrs. Kelly, we do not condone this sort of behavior at our school."

"But you also apparently do little to stop it. Damon has been harassing Nelly after school."

"Other girls too," Nelly said.

"I'm afraid we have no control over the children once school is over and they are away from school property," the principal said.

"It appears you don't have control over them ever." She stood and nodded to Nelly to stand also. "Boys who harass girls turn into men who assault women. I'm sure you can find a hundred statistics to bear that out."

"A correlation might be made, but Damon-"

Deidre led Nelly to the door. "Damon will not harass my daughter again, nor any other girl in this school, or the school board will hear about it."

"We don't appreciate threats," Ms. Hollings said.

"And I don't appreciate apathy. You have a problem in your school. You see a need, you see children who need help-then do something about it. Good day, ladies."

Once in the car, Nelly said, "Thanks, Mom."

"Anytime, sweetie. Anytime. Anyplace.

* * *

It was not something any citizen-patriotic or otherwise-looked forward to getting. A jury-duty letter.

After reading it once, Deidre read it again. No. Not now. She couldn't do this. She'd been so stressed the past few months that she'd turned into one of those nervous Nellies who jumped at sounds and focused on worst-case scenarios.

Speaking of Nellies ... she had her own Nelly to worry about. Beyond the problems with bullies at school, Nelly had a schedule that rivaled that of the president of a country. Being a Carpool Mom and Mother Protector was as unglamorous as it sounded and often made Deidre feel as though she had no purpose other than negotiating the drop-off lane or meeting with an assortment of powers that be, suggesting they do their jobs.

Her husband, Sig, offered little help with the logistics of Nelly's schedule. He was a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and often traveled the world performing free surgeries with his Kelly Pediatric Foundation. The foundation's motto was "Bringing help to the helpless." An able goal, though helping Deidre with the occasional piano lesson or teacher conference would have been appreciated.

Now, with this jury notice ... The world already sat heavily on Deidre's shoulders like the yoke of a milkmaid carrying sloshing pails. Her feet were in constant danger of getting wet, her shoulders were sore, and her breaking point was imminent.

Added to the intricate scheduling were the responsibilities she incurred as the wife of a pediatric surgeon. In order to help finance the foundation, she was required to attend countless banquets and fund-raising events. Deidre usually enjoyed playing the pretty socialite, smiling and saying all the right things to the right people to get the right results. She hadn't climbed her way out of near poverty to sit in the shadows. Yet sometimes being "on" all the time was a pain and a drain.

Though certainly not the same degree of pain and drain as what she'd endured in her life before Sig. Deidre's first husband, Don, had died five years earlier after a long battle with cancer. In the aftermath of his death-since there'd been no insurance-she'd been forced to sell their small home and move in with Don's mother, Karla. Karla had lived in the Polland family home, a crumbling fixer-upper that sported a refrigerator whose freezer only worked part-time, many lights that wouldn't work at all (but couldn't be fixed for fear that the electrician would say the entire house needed rewiring), and a furnace that clanked loudly as it spit out not enough heat.

The only perk to the house had been the presence of Karla. The typical mother-in-law jokes never applied to her. Karla was the nurturing mother Deidre never had. The three generations of Polland females had huddled together in the old house, sharing their grief, making do, striving to get from this day to the next.

Until Deidre met Dr. Sigmund T. Kelly.

After their whirlwind courtship and union, Deidre, little Nelly, and even Karla had moved into Sig's 7,500-square-foot mansion that sported an enormous stainless steel refrigerator-freezer, lights that wouldn't dare not work, and a furnace that softly purred as it made their life cozy warm.

Yes indeed, the life she was living held little pain and was very nearly perfect.

Back before Sig, Deidre-known as Dee-Dee back then-had been working as a med tech at Mountain Valley Hospital in Branson, Missouri. She'd come into contact with Dr. Kelly off and on and had been instantly attracted to him. More surprisingly, he'd been attracted to her. She was pretty enough, with long blonde hair and a body with just enough curves to be interesting. Physically, they were on an equal par. As for the rest of any Sig-Deidre comparison? She was a nobody, a peon pricking fingers and taking blood, while he was an internationally known doctor, famous for his philanthropy. Dee-Dee hadn't even known what philanthropy meant.

When Dr. Kelly had first asked her out, she'd kept her past private, as well as her current housing situation. Sig didn't need to know about her rough beginnings, her sorrows and insecurities, or her tough living conditions. Not until she'd charmed him into not caring.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Solemnly Swear by NANCY MOSER Copyright © 2007 by Nancy Moser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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