After the trial.

The following story was inspired by last week’s criminal trial during which I served as a juror, but in no way does it express any opinions about it. It is strictly a work of fiction.

Ian collapsed on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV just as the evening news was starting.

“Good evening,” said the news anchor. “Our top story tonight, a shocking ending to a closely watched murder trial. We now go to the courthouse.”

“MOM!” Ian yelled. “You gotta see this!”

A reporter standing outside the courthouse began her report. “The murder trial of Ian White ended on a surprising note today when a jury took only 15 minutes to find Mr. White not guilty of grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding, and first degree murder. The defendant was immediately released from custody after all charges were dropped.”

“And here I am at home, free as a bird!” Ian yelled.

“Ian, be quiet!” Ian’s mother yelled back, watching the coverage of Ian’s trial which ended earlier in the day.

The reporter continued, “We caught up with the foreman of the jury, and he had this to say.”

Then a man appeared on the screen. “Well, we were set to convict him on all the charges, but somehow we got a change of heart and decided to acquit him instead. I can’t explain how it happened, but it did.”

The reporter came back on camera. “Mr. White was accused of stealing his mother’s car and then picking up his friend Steve Strominger so they could go to The Bloody Duck strip club. They left hours later heavily intoxicated and Mr. White tried driving his friend home, but not without swerving all over the road.”

As the reporter continued her report, a blurry, mysterious figure dressed in a black, hooded robe walked across the background far behind the reporter. Then it stopped, turned to the camera, and flashed its mysterious white eyes.

The reporter continued, not noticing the hooded figure behind her, “A police car tried to pull him over, but Mr. White gave chase and soon crashed his car into the Intracoastal Waterway, where he swam safely to shore while leaving his friend behind in the sinking car to drown.”

The figure resumed its walk and disappeared from the camera’s view as the reporter finished, “The verdict has sent shock waves throughout the legal community as it promises to launch a vicious debate on the integrity of the American justice system.”

“I still think you got away with murder,” Ian’s mother said.

“Says you!” Ian retorted. “I’m a free man now. Deal with it.”

“Something’s not right here,” she muttered as she walked out of the living room.

That night, Ian lay in bed in his dark bedroom, still overcome with relief from the stressful week just concluded. He still couldn’t believe what had happened. Then the quiet was shattered by a voice.

“Feeling good about yourself, Ian?”

Ian gasped. His heart began pumping harder when he realized he was no longer alone.

“Who’s there?” Ian asked.

“Turn on the light and see.”

Ian slowly reached for the bedroom light and when the bedroom became filled with light, he could see the horrific sight that made up his unexpected visitor. It was a bloated, pale corpse of a heavyset man, dripping wet as if just pulled out of the water.

“YOU KILLED ME!” screamed Steve before lunging forward, his hands ready to wrap themselves around Ian’s neck.

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