By: Emma Scott

“It’s a lot better than your hot air,” Carol hissed.

“So what happens now?” Tanya asked. “The police are here, right? They’re going to get us out?”

“They have to negotiate first,” Roy declared, as if being held hostage were a hobby of his. “And if the robbers don’t get what they want, they start using the only tool they have. Us.”

“I’ve seen the movies,” Gil said, his hands turning over and over in his lap. “Dog Day Afternoon? The robbers always want a way out and the cops always stall them. Because that can never happen. They’ll never let them go.”

“Which means we’re screwed,” Roy said.

Beside me, I felt Cory stiffen. “Look, man, knock it off. There’s no reason to go scaring the piss out of everyone more than we already are.”

Before Roy could retort, I said, “The S.W.A.T. team is probably outside these walls right now. The FBI too. This building is surrounded, schematics being studied, snipers taking position. Yes, a hostage negotiator is probably the one who called Dracula. He’s going to get him talking, wear him down, glean information. They’re going to work around the clock, using the best technology and psychology they have. We just have to be calm, do as robbers say, and wait for the professionals to get us out. Okay?”

The others nodded and Roy subsided into a sulky silence.

Cory turned to me, admiration in his eyes. “How did you know all that? Watch a lot of cop movies too?”

“I had a client who was a former FBI agent. He had some wild stories.”

Cory inclined his head at the group, who each looked calmer now. “You did good.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I wish I could say the same for me. I feel like I’m going to throw up.”

“Just breathe,” he said. “Breathe.”

I did, and the sour nausea in my gut eased, though not by much. The first hour was the worst—no one spoke, but for Amita, who muttered to herself now and then, but we kept our eyes on the door, jumping at every sound.

A tense silence fell, thick with dread and uncertainty. Only Carol seemed unaffected. She leaned her head and its crop of short silvery hair against the wall and closed her eyes, settling in for a nap.

“Well,” Tanya the caterer ventured, putting on a brave face. “Anyone have a deck of cards?”


No one had cards or anything else with which to pass the time, as most of our belongings were now at the bottom of the monster squad’s white trash bags. Amita chatted with Cory—monopolized him, really—leaving me to my own devices. Whatever was happening between the bank robbers and the police hadn’t touched us in here yet. Hours passed, and though I’d never have guessed it possible, the mind-numbing fear gave way to boredom. I decided to follow in Carol’s footsteps and take a nap.

I tried to get comfortable but the floor was just as hard and unforgiving as the wall.

Cory turned my way and saw my struggle. He tapped his left shoulder. “Be my guest.”

I smiled faintly. “I want to, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s a good idea to let my guard down.”

“Probably right, though it looks like Carol doesn’t see it that way.” He nodded at the older woman, whose soft snores had been filling the small room for the last hour. “She’s a tough old bird.”

“Coping mechanism,” I said in a lower tone.

“How can you tell?”

“When you pick as many juries as I do, you get a sense for people. What they’re like.”

“Oh yeah?” Cory shifted toward me. “You think she’s…what? Playing possum?”

“Maybe. I think she puts on a tough front to cover her fear, but now she’s just escaping the best—and only—way she can.” I shrugged. “Or I could be completely wrong and she just really needed a nap. Being scared shitless is draining.”

“Yeah, I guess it is. So how do you pick a jury, anyway?”

“It’s called voire dire,” I said. “I question potential jurors and try to keep or cut those I think would be best for my case. Opposition does the same.”

“Okay, so how about us?”