The jury's chief assistant entered a few minutes later, aglow with his own importance. His long fingers clasped a slim envelope, eight and a half by eleven inches, sealed as protocol demanded. "I am dying with anticipation," Lanny breathed as he handed the envelope to Paul, who made no reply. The envelope's numbers and bar code matched those of the Garden; the envelope's seal was unbroken. Paul made sure both the jurors and the minute-taker noted this and waited for the reluctant assistant to take his leave.
Once the door shut, Paul picked up the silver letter opener the young man had left behind - he did have a flair for detail - and slit the flap, taking care (again, the specter of history) not to tear the envelope. His caution somehow recalled Jacob, his eldest son, at a childhood birthday party, obsessively trying not to rip the wrapping paper, even then misunderstanding where value lay. An impatient Paul had told him to hurry it along.
Hurry it along: the same message from the room's quiet, in which the jurors seemed to breathe as one. He pulled out the paper, sensing thirteen pairs of eyes upon him. To know the winner's identity before the jury, not to mention the mayor or governor or president, should have been a small but satisfying token of his stature. What better measure of how high Paul Joseph Rubin, grandson of a Russian Jewish peasant, had climbed? And yet reading the name brought no pleasure, only a painful tightening in his jaw.
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