The Question – Chapter One

As April Drummond looks at her etiolated image reflected in the dirty, almost opaque windows of Craggy Prison, she counts the steel bars that separate her from the outside world…and waits.  She waits for the monthly visit that she desperately wants, but knows will never come.

She is inconsequential.  She is unimportant.  She is insignificant.  She is irrelevant.  She is nonessential.  She is meaningless.  She is picayune.

She is also a murderer.

There are no words of comfort from the guard, who watches her every move, as she sits and waits.  There is only a slight look of fear when her visitation time is up, and no one has come.

April has a look in her eyes…the kind of look that unnerves you.  The kind of look that makes you shudder.  The kind of look that makes you question whether she is predator or prey.  The kind of look that foments the common reaction of fight or flight, when confronted by fear.  For those reasons, other inmates don’t bother her, but those aren’t the only reasons.

A one time interaction with another prisoner named BB, aka Big Bertha, aka Big Bitch, who invited April to join her “family,” became folklore legend.

BB, an unsympathetic bully, was born in this very prison, and as if written in a playbook, she found her way back “home” when she was just 23.

Her mother, (street name Jasmine) was a drug addict, who got pinched for prostitution after she solicited an undercover police officer.

Jasmine told BB that she didn’t know who her father was, but whoever he was, for a minute or a month, he was surely a happy man after having “been with her.”

The day before Jasmine was to be released, she was stabbed to death by another inmate.

It was well known that BB ruled the prison, had a few guards in her pockets, had her defenders, her enforcers and her family, which included several “daughters,” and three “wives,” and was not the kind of prisoner you ignored, challenged, or turned down.

Although BB wasn’t a large woman, she was powerful and intimidating. April, being diminutive, was mistakenly considered an easy mark by BB and her family.  When she refused BB for the last time, the family gathered around her like a pack of angry wolves.

April grabbed BB’s left breast and twisted it like a corkscrew.  BB screamed in agonizing pain, and dropped to her knees.  After she surrendered, she attempted to smile as she said, “I forgot that you were a murderer.”

April leaned over and whispered, “don’t forget it again.”

At 38, she is three years into her forty year sentence, which carries the possibility of parole after ten years, or possibly sooner if she is a model prisoner, or overcrowding becomes an issue.

Everyone who is incarcerated declares their innocence, but not April.  She is the only guilty inmate in the prison.

 

To be continued_______________

 

Happy Birthday…To Sir

When I was just a little girl,
I had a Panda bear.
I kept him in a plastic bag,
To keep him clean in there.

I got him for my birthday,
I was four or five.
I said a prayer and asked the Lord,
To make him come alive.

My granny gave him to me,
He always stayed with her.
She asked me what his name was,
I said, “I call him Sir.”

She’d sometimes let me take him out,
But only if I’d swear,
To not fall down and dirty him,
My little Panda bear.

I hardly got to play with him,
She feared he would get smudged.
I tried to understand the why,
And never hold a grudge.

I grew up and moved away,
And I left Sir behind,
But I knew he would never be,
Far out of sight or mind.

The years went by, and my life changed.
My world had been derailed.
I never thought that what I’d built,
Would ultimately fail.

I went back to that old house,
To walk down memory lane.
Echoes of the past reminded me,
Of my loneliness and pain.

I thought of Sir and wondered if,
Like me, he’d lost his way.
Or if he’d been discarded,
And cast into the Frey.

I found him in the attic,
Amongst my mama’s stash.
He was in a plastic bag,
With other bits of trash.

The memories came flooding back,
We were quite the pair.
A bruised and broken little girl,
And her ragged Panda bear.

My only friend when I was young,
Who listened to me cry.
Who never slapped me in the face,
And never told a lie.

His shiny coat was grey and black,
His eyes were not so clear,
But he was coming home with me,
My little Panda bear.

They say when you’re alone and old,
You talk to things not there.
I just nod and say okay,
As I wink at Panda bear.

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Four

Two weeks after Randall returned from New York, he received a call from Dick.  “I don’t know how to tell you this, son, but Martina has taken her final curtain call.”

Almost unable to breathe, Randall asked what he meant.  Dick said, “she was found in her dressing room after she failed to appear onstage.  It looks like she overdosed, but not before someone damn near beat her to death.  They haven’t yet released the official cause.”

“Are you sure it’s her?  How did you find out?” Randall asked.  Dick said, “I always make friends with local law enforcement, and as you know, information is for sale.”

“Are you still there?” asked Randall.  “No,” Dick said.  “I left last week, but I got the call a few minutes ago.  Apparently, Martina was well known to ‘New York’s Finest’.  They closed their eyes to the drugs, if she…well, if she…opened her mouth…or her legs.  I know that’s an indelicate way to put it, but it is what it is…or it was what it was, rather.”

Randall was audibly crying as they continued to talk.  “Do they know who did it?  Do they have any leads?”  Dick said, “no leads.  The kind of work she did, and the lifestyle she was leading, doesn’t really lend itself to a list of ‘usual suspects’.  It could have been anyone.  A spurned cast member, a jealous cast member, or a complete stranger.  They just don’t know.”

“What’s going to happen to her?” he asked.  Then, panicked he asked, “has anyone gotten in touch with her mother and father?”

Dick said, “I don’t think they know who to get in touch with.  That’s why I called you.  Do you want me to tell them who she was, and how to get in touch with them…or will you?”

Randall dropped the phone and yelled, “JESUS!”  When he picked it back up, he asked Dick if he was still there.  Dick said, “I’m still here.  He hesitated and said, “I haven’t been made privy to it, but the officers found a note.”

Randall was suddenly catapulted back to the day they found Callie.  “What did the note say?” he asked.

Dick said, “I don’t know, but I can probably get my hands on a copy, for the right price, of course.”  Randall said, “pay whatever they want.  Just get a copy.”

Dick said, “consider it done, but what about her next of kin?  Don’t you think they should know?”

Randall said, “yes.  I think they should know, but I don’t want them to know everything…and I want to bring her home.”  After a long pause, he said, “let me ask you a question.”

Dick said, “go on.”

“Do you think you could buy off the coroner?  Maybe have him certify her death due to unknown or maybe even natural causes?”  Dick sighed and said, “wow.  That’s a pretty big ask.  I don’t know how corrupt the coroners here are, and even if I found one who would be willing, I’d bet it wouldn’t come cheap.  You’re talking about official, legal documents…and if I could get it done, it would mean that the person who brutalized her would get away with it.  No evidence…no conviction.  Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Randall said.

Two days and ten thousand dollars later, Dick called Randall.  He had a copy of the death certificate, listing cause of death as “natural.”  He also had a copy of the note Martina left.  It was déjà vu for Randall.  Dick said that Martina was clutching the note in her hand when she died.

Dick said, “she’s listed as Jane Doe, and they’re going to cremate her in a few days.  Do you still want to bring her home, and don’t you think you should tell her parents?”

Randall said, “no.  Leave her there and find out what they’re going to do with her remains.  Can you send me the note?”

“Check your email,” Dick said.

As soon as Randall got the alert, he opened the email and openly sobbed as he began to read.

 I went looking for love,
And all I found was shame.
I went looking for justice,
And all I found was blame.

I went looking for truth,
And all I found was lies.
I went looking for someone,
Who could hear my desperate cries.

I was playing a part,
And I let people stare.
I took off my clothes,
And colored my hair.

I went looking for reasons,
I had questions to ask.
All I found was deception,
From the ones in the mask.

I went looking for answers,
And all I found was silence.
I went looking for warmth,
And all I found was violence.

I went looking for trust,
And all I found was deceit.
I went looking for honor,
And all I found was a cheat.

I went looking for peace,
And all I found was regret.
I was looking for a pardon,
But they couldn’t forget.

I went looking for dreams,
And all I found was pain.
I went looking for comfort,
So I needled a vein.

I went looking for rescue,
But it came too late.
All I learned from living,
Was how how it feels to hate.

 

Randall called Dick but said nothing.  Finally, Dick asked, “what are you thinking?”  Randall said, “I think she hated what she was doing.  I think she was looking for redemption, but couldn’t get past her defiance of everything she had ever known.  I think someone betrayed her, and I think someone killed her.”

“Well,” Dick said.  “When it comes to her, you wanted the slate wiped clean, and that’s what you got.  As far as anyone knows, she just disappeared, and you have to let it go.  I don’t want you to go all cowboy on me and start stirring up a can of worms.  In other words, don’t start opening doors that you can’t close.  She made her own choices.  You tried to save her, but she didn’t want salvation.  Tell me that you are going to let this go.”

After several seconds of silence, Dick asked, “are you there?  Are you going to let this go?”

Randall said, “I appreciate everything you’ve done.  Send me the bill.”  Dick again asked, “are you going to let this go?”

Randall said, “no,” and hung up.

 

დასასრული.

 

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Three

Randall caught the next available flight to New York.  He was accustomed, as was Martina, to chauffeurs and wasn’t even sure how to hail a taxi, other than what he had seen on movies.

His anxiety was eased when he walked from the terminal and saw taxis lined up, waiting to deliver arriving passengers to their destinations.  A first time visitor could easily be taken advantage of, with unnecessary side roads and out of the way routes, but Randall was smart.  He told the driver where he wished to go and sternly warned, “I know how far it is and I know how long it will take.”  Of course, in reality, he didn’t have a clue.

Forty-five minutes later, the driver stopped at the New York Theater. Randall got out and stared at the bright marquee.  “Do you want that I should wait?” asked the driver.  Randall told him to go on.  He said he didn’t know how long he would be.  The driver winked and said, “well, enjoy, my friend.  I hear she really puts on a show.”

Randall walked in, paid the admission to a brute of a man named “Big Dog, and was told that he just missed the first show.  Big Dog said another show would be in about an hour, pointed to a bar area and he could get a drink while he waited.  He leaned over and quietly asked, “are you a cop?”  Randall stuttered as he said, “excuse me?”  Big Dog said, “if you’re a cop, you have to say it.  Randall said, “no.  I’m not a police officer.”  Big Dog said “well, while your waiting, if you want a little “extra” recreation, that can be arranged.”

Although a little afraid, Randall thanked him and politely declined.  Big Dog didn’t seemed concerned once a spectator was inside, so Randall walked toward the dressing rooms.  The doors were all closed, and the outsides were decorated with names, ribbons, pictures and some phallic symbols.

The last one on the right, left no doubt that he had found Martina’s room.  The door was covered with silver and gold stars.  In the center, a large red star bore the name, “Callie.”

He knocked lightly and heard a voice say, “you may enter.”  When he opened the door, he saw Martina was sitting in front of a mirror, wearing nothing but a shocking hot pink colored feather boa around her neck.

As had Callie when Martina first appeared at The Middle Of Nowhere coffee shop, she said, “well, look who it is.”

Randall was shocked.  Martina had dyed her hair platinum blonde and the pancake make-up was so thick, he wondered how she got it off after the show.  But he thought to himself, “she really does look like Marilyn Monroe.”

He was trying to look everywhere…anywhere except straight at her.  Her nudity made him uncomfortable.  She rolled her eyes and said, “you’re such a child.  If you’re uncomfortable, throw me my robe.”  He obliged and noticed a tattoo of a Phoenix on her inner arm.  Her tattoo wasn’t covering tracks.  Hers was covering now healed but still red slice marks.

“When did you become a cutter?” he asked.

“I’m not a cutter,” she said.  “It was a one time thing.”

Randall said, “you’re not a cutter, like you’re not an addict?  “Oh please”, she said.  “I was just having a hard time, so I cut myself.  I thought if I cut myself, the pain would go there instead of here,” as she put her hand over her heart.

“Why don’t you come home?” Randall bravely asked.

Martina angrily said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I AM A STAR!  My name is in lights.  I am adored.  Women want to be me and men want to be with me.  People come from all over to see me.  Look at you.  Look how far you came to see me.  By the way, why did you come to see me?”

Randall said, “I thought I could talk you into going back with me.  Your parents miss you.”

“My parents.”  Martina said.  “My parents miss the puppet I used to be.  They miss the little girl they could dress up like a doll.  They miss being able to dictate who and what I was going to be.  And my parents can keep missing me, because I am never going back.  Not for them…not for you…not for anyone.”

Martina said, “you must excuse me.  I have to get ready for my next show.”  She looked at him with a callous smile and said, “if this is going to offend your sensitivities, I suggest you leave.”  Randall was horrified as he watched her take out a syringe and stick it between her toes.

“Don’t!” Randall pleaded.

Martina smiled as she injected the liquid courage.

Randall again pleaded.  “Is this really the life you want?  Do you want to be an addict?  Do you want to make a living taking your clothes off?  Do you think this is the life Callie wanted for you?”

Martina, enraged said, “Callie is dead.  It doesn’t matter what she wanted or didn’t want, and this isn’t about her.  I have a beautiful body.”  She slowly and seductively walked toward him, ran her hands up his chest and said, “don’t you want to touch me?”

Randall took her hands and held them.  “No.  I don’t want to touch you.  I want you to stop what you’re doing and come home.”

Martina, almost screaming, said, “I want you to leave.  Now!  I didn’t ask you to save me.  Get out!  Go on!  Get out and never come back!”

Randall left and started walking down the street.  What a different world this was.  Everything was for sale.  Drugs, sex, pirated music and movies, knock-off designer handbags and “genuine” Rolex watches.

He hailed a taxi.  He was going home.

 

To be continued___________

 

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Three

Randall took a deep breath, sighed and said, “go on.”  He barely got the words out of his mouth before he added, “is she on Broadway?”

Dick began his narrative in a matter-of-fact monotone.

“Yes, she’s on Broadway, but not exactly where you would probably hope.  She’s with The New York Theater Performance Group.”

Randall interrupted momentarily and almost tongue-in-cheek, asked, “is her name in lights?”

“You could say that,” Dick replied.  “She’s headlining a play.  A marquee reads…”  He hesitated, cleared his throat and said, “are you sure you want to hear what I’m going to tell you?”

Randall said, “yes.”

Dick continued.  “The play is called ‘Getting Intimate With Martine Monroe’.  The marquee reads, ‘You’ll forget all about Marilyn, once you feast your eyes upon the provocative, captivating temptress, Martine’.”

“So, what does that mean?” Randall said, sounding confused.  “Is it a play a little on the seedy side or is it…?”  Dick said, “son, it’s exactly what you think it is.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  She’s a porn star, and from what I hear, and have seen, she’s a pretty good one.”

“You’ve seen the show?” Randall asked.  “How does she look?”  He quickly corrected the way the question sounded and asked, “does she look happy?”  Again, trying to correct himself, he said, almost mumbling, “I just want to know if she looks like she’s enjoying what she’s doing.”  Again, trying to reclaim some dignity, he said, “I guess there are no easy questions to ask about this kind of work.  It would be sort of like asking a prostitute is she has fun doing what she does…or asking an addict if they like drugs.”  Then he asked, “did she look high?”

Dick said, “that, I couldn’t say.  Did she look like she was enjoying herself? Yes, she did, but I imagine she’s making a pretty penny for acting like she’s enjoying herself, and I will say that she looked like she knew what she was doing, high or not.  This may be a little too personal, but was she promiscuous?”

Randall said, “No…at least not when I knew her.  I’m not sure she had ever even been kissed.  We didn’t have an intimate relationship.”  Dick gingerly asked, “did you want one?”  Randall said, “I hadn’t really given it much thought.  I just knew she was headed down a dark path and I wanted to help her.  I understood the constraints of the way she was raised, and I know that sometimes, privilege makes one…rebellious…shall we say?  I also know that rebellion sometimes manifests itself in the shape of pills or liquid inside a needle, or powder sucked up a nose.”

“You know, son,” Dick said.  “Almost daily, actors and actresses admit to popping a few pills or having a little snort to help them with the long hours and strenuous demands of their jobs.  Now, I’m not saying it’s right.  I just know it happens.”

“My question to you, is this,” he said.  “Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?”  Randall admitted that he had no idea.

After the call ended, he sat down and poured a glass of wine.  The last time he had wine was when he and Martina were toasting Callie.  Dick had a valid question, he thought.  What was he going to do?  Should he go to New York?  And what would he do when he got there?  Try to talk Martina into coming home?  Try to talk her into forgoing her pornographic career?

He wasn’t her official advocate.  He wasn’t her mentor in any sense.  He wasn’t even sure that she considered him to be a friend.  His past kept echoing.  Someone had reached out to him.  Someone had save him.

He finished his glass of wine, and made a decision.

 

To be continued__________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-Two

Randall got a call from the private detective.  During the several weekly unfruitful calls, Randall was finally comfortable calling him Dick, rather than “sir.”  Dick said, “none of that sir bullshit,” and had taken to calling him “son.”

Dick was an old movie buff.  His chosen genre was about old, beaten down private eyes, who lived in dank, one-room flats; sat in bars, drinking beer and dreaming of the “big case” that would send their name into infinity.

He played those roles perfectly when necessary, but he had a reputation for getting the job done.  His personalities ranged from portraying a forgetful, podunk hillbilly, to a man with a license, a gun and justifiable homicide in his eyes.

“Well, son,” he said.  “I have news, but not much.  Apparently, she’s going by the name Martine Monroe,” but he didn’t reveal how he acquired the information.

Randall chuckled as he echoed, “Martine Monroe?  That’s interesting.  Do you have an address?”

Dick said, “working on it, but nothing so far.”

Randall was tentative about asking Dick to try to locate a few of the local drug dealers, because that could potentially put him in harms’ way, but Dick was slick.  Randall believed that he was the kind of man who could actually sell drugs to a drug dealer, so he asked.

“Already on it,” Dick said.  “I’ve got some feelers out.  Money talks, as you well know, and some people will sell their mama’s soul for a little cash.”

Without explanation, Dick hesitated and said, “son, I don’t get into people’s business.  I just do my job and cash their checks, but sometimes I tell a client that they have to ask themselves if the person and the expense is worth it, and this is getting pretty expensive.”

Randall said, “I believe she’s worth it.  I may be wrong, but let’s just say…I’m hoping she’s worth it.”

Dick said, “you also have to understand that some people just don’t want to be found.  Furthermore, you have to understand that what you find out may not be what you want to find out.  Just keep that in mind.”

“I will,” said Randall.  After the call, Randall started thinking about what Dick said.  He questioned himself again as to his motives.  Yes, he wanted to save her, but did she want to be saved?  He didn’t believe he needed saving when he was flying high, and he didn’t want to be saved.  He thought he was living.  He thought everyone else had a problem.  “I’ll give it two more weeks,” he thought to himself.  “Then, I’ll let it go.”

He was aware of the monsters that sometimes reappear when dealing with an addict.  You can be drawn back into their world.  You can be pulled under.  You can actually believe that it can be only once, “for old time’s sake.”

He only confessed to himself that not a day went by when he wasn’t lusting after a fix, even though he knew that fix could potentially lead to a wooden crucifix being placed on a mound of dirt.

Exactly two weeks later, the phone rang.

“Are you ready for what you’re going to hear?” asked Dick.

 

To be continued_________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Twenty-One

Randall watched as Martina walked away.  After a few steps, she turned and smiled at him like a bully, who had just emotionally gutted someone.

Randall understood how Martina was feeling.  She was feeling in control and she was loving it.  She was feeling a sense of power and she was loving it, but in reality, she had power and control of nothing.

The drug had the power and control.

After that night, he reached out to her several times, but his efforts were fruitless.  When the semester ended, Martina left.  No goodbye, no note, no phone call, nothing.  She was gone.  Just as she said to mother…”Martina has been deleted.”

Mother was beside herself and father was little more than an obtuse bystander, shaking his head and saying his tired, “she’ll be back.  Just give her time” statement.  Mother angrily conveyed her belief that Callie had successfully ruined Martina, and was instrumental in her change of personality and subsequent disappearance.

Randall didn’t tell them about Callie.  He didn’t tell them that Martina was using drugs.  He didn’t tell them about his own past.  He only told them that he would try to find her.

Putting on his imaginary Deerstalker, he began to look for her. Unbeknownst to Martina, he knew the dark shadowy figure behind the coffee shop.  “Joe Blow” had been his drug dealer in the past, and he knew that for the right price, not only could he get drugs, he could get information.

Five large was what it cost Randall to find out that Martina had gone to New York, just as she said.  “For another five, I’ll tell you exactly where she went, and I’ll even throw in the name of the dealer I hooked her up with,” Joe said with a laugh.  “By the way, I’ve got some ‘ICE’ if you’re interested. It’s as pure as the driven snow.  How ’bout it?  Been a while, hasn’t it? Come on.  I’ll even give you a break on the price…for old time’s sake.”

Randall passed on the information and the drugs.  Walking away, he remembered “the shoulder,” he felt after his injection, and for a split second, thought about going back but he knew that like all addicts, the want will always be there, the animal will always try to get control, and the cage must never again be opened.

Gathering his thoughts, he knew Martina would have headed to Manhattan. That’s where all the Broadway star wannabes always go.  The question was, could he find her?

Going to New York was not a trip he wanted to make, so he sought the help of a private detective.  Having no real information, other than his suspicions as to her whereabouts, the detective said he would do what he could, with basically nothing but a name.

Randall wasn’t sure if she was even using her real name.  All he could offer was “Martina or Martine Hamilton.”  He wasn’t sure if she had changed her looks, other than the effects of whatever drug she was using.  The detective reminded him that one could very successfully hide in New York.  “It’s a big place,” he said.  “You can move just one block away, and no one will ever find you.”

A month went by, and meager information was all Randall received.  A few people said they “thought they had seen her,” and wanted money for information, which of course, might or might not be accurate.  In Randall’s experience, most people could be bought, but it didn’t mean that what you were buying was worth the price.

He asked himself what he would do if he found her.  Would she talk to him?  Would she treat him the way she had before she left?  Would she accuse him of stalking her?  He was sure of nothing, but felt as though he had a debt.  Someone had helped him through his addiction, and he wanted to pay it forward.  Someone had saved his life.  He wanted to save someone else’s.  He wanted to save Martina.

Two months later, a break.

 

To be continued__________