Authors: Keisha Orphey
That whore is the reason drugs are so plentiful in our great state. Give her death!
Those ninety-nine years looked more promising by the minute.
Her heart thumping in his chest, Dawn folded her hands in her lap and asked, “How long before I can go home?”
“It’ll be at least thirty days,” Lydia replied shuffling folders. Each of the seven represented a client in the custody of Harris County.
She dropped her face in her hands. Tears flooded her eyes. She bawled uncontrollably, “I was kidnapped!”
“Excuse me?” Lydia was taken aback by Dawn’s outburst. She slammed the folders on the table, crossed her arms and fell back indignantly in her chair.
“He forced me to drive to Houston,” she mustered between sobs, avoiding Lydia’s glare, as if knowing the woman stared at her with disbelieving eyes.
It took a beat for Lydia to register Dawn’s response. Her pen didn’t even make contact with the paper she’d taken out of the attaché. “Is
the claim you wish to make before a grand jury”
“Yes,” she sniffed. Her eyes swelled. Strands of hair remained wet on her cheeks.
“Are you aware an informant was present in the beeper shop?”
You should’ve gone to work.
Dawn remained silent. She couldn’t even look at Lydia. She felt trapped. She
trapped. And as if the scene replayed before her on the wall, Dawn could see the large man being led away in the opposite direction. Big John was a snitch. A rat.
It had been a sting operation. And Dawn had fallen into the trap like an unsuspecting beetle in a spider’s web.
Lydia read from one of the pages: “She chose a beeper from the case. It had a marijuana leaf on the front. She looked at Amos and said she wanted it. She didn’t appear to be in any danger. She even asked what took me so long to get there.” Lydia gave Dawn a look, and then asked: “Should I continue? There’s more.”
Dawn swallowed hard. The room seemed to spin now. The large man, she thought. He was the informant.
Let’s wrap this up.
Lydia continued: “I would say she knew about the transaction and was going to benefit from the sale of the cocaine.” Lydia peered at Dawn over wire rimmed glasses. “An informant wouldn’t lie to a grand jury, Miss Miles. He was wired and trying to save his own ass--,” she removed the glasses, closed the attaché and replaced it in the rolling case. “-- and until you decide you want to be honest with me--”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” Dawn mumbled as her only salvation prepared to leave. She knew the woman was only doing her job, but she felt empty and alone. Besides, she dreaded going back to the cellblock for another thirty days. Take me with you, she thought. Please, get me out of here today!
“Being in the wrong place at the wrong time,
with the wrong people isn’t a crime. If you didn’t do anything wrong and you can tell me everything I need to know to convince the prosecutor, you have nothing to worry about.” Lydia stood, pulling on her coat. She’d had enough already and was not about to waste any more time with a girl who didn’t care about her future.
“What should I say?” Dawn finally looked up at the short woman staring back at her. This woman held Dawn’s life in the false pocket of that ugly suit. “I’m guilty of leaving the state and not telling my parents… I’m guilty of lying to my manager at work…”
It was as if Dawn’s gaze had materialized into large hands gently guiding Lydia back into the chair.
“You need to tell me the truth.” Lydia folded her hands on the table and looked Dawn straight in the eye: “Were you kidnapped?”
Dawn shook her head. Her eyes fixated on the dark cement floor now. The room started to come into focus.
When the security guard first led her into the room, everything seemed blurry. A haze. A nightmare. She now noticed the metal walls an unsightly shade of pastel green and there were numerous inscriptions carved into the paint.
Big Red Wuz Here, Pookie Bear, Natasha luvs Bryan.
How were those women able to leave their marks? How many years had those writings been there? There were even imprints on the dark wooden table, but those were not legible. There were no windows in the small space and the light hanging above was missing more than half its bulbs. Dawn pictured Big Red a loud-mouthed woman with gold capped teeth, a cheap wig, and unattractive gaudy shoes like those available for purchase at any Oriental-owned black beauty supply store. Big Red surely had at least four kids with four different men. What was Big Red’s real name? Did Natasha still love Bryan? Were they writing love letters to one another prison-to-prison?
Now, I’m one of those women, Dawn thought. Should I ask my attorney for an ink pen so I can scratch my mark as well? Years from now, after the trial is over and I’m serving those ninety-nine years, another girl just like me could read my name and wonder the same. We might even wind up living in the same cellblock. Dawn’s emotions fluttered. How was she going to last thirty days in this place, much less ninety years. A mule in a metal box. I’ll lose my mind if I don’t get out of here soon, she thought.
“Help me, help you.” Lydia’s words seemed encouraging now.
“Tell me the truth.”
“How much time do we have?”
¤ ¤ ¤
Ruthie forced the sawed-off shampoo bottle onto the exposed end of the spout creating a funneled water spray in the shower stall fit for a cellblock of alleged murderers, drug dealers, and white-collared criminals. Tucked in the grim corner of the cellblock and just seven feet away from the pay phone, the single communal stall was open for all to see including the female security guards who sat in the corridor. Dark gray gnats swarmed upward, infesting the area through the slimy floor drain. The pests gathered close, as if knowingly forming a body much larger than their own to ward off the cockroaches inhabiting the area. Stained with mildew and urine, the stall was the only form of a relaxing shower the women would receive next to their own; many wouldn’t see home for years.
Some even decades.
Like Dolores who’d spent the last nine months in the Harris County Jail awaiting her fate. “I got twenty-five years,” she’d mumbled through tears returning from trial. Dolores had been convicted of assault with a firearm and armed robbery.
The judge had thrown the book at her imposing the maximum sentence allowed by law. “You and your conspirators traveled to our county with the intent of causing bodily harm to appease your own selfish gratification. We will defeat you! I’d give you
if the law allowed! Consider yourself lucky.” Judge Simmons had barked in the courtroom.
And there were also Kristen and Sophia, the sisters from Mexico who’d smuggled one hundred pounds of marijuana into the states in a secret compartment of their Honda Accord. Neither sister spoke a word of English, but during their thirteen-month incarceration in the Harris County Jail, each had learned ‘Thank You’ and ‘Yes, ma’am’.
Eleven cells. Six on one side and five on the shortest wall. In the center and high up on the wall, a television was bolted in place on a wooden slate. An expansive barred window above allowed rays of light to filter through. If one were lucky, she could catch a glimpse of a bird in flight. Seated around a bolted steel table, female inmates ate from unusually thick food trays. Other inmates loitered.
Cassandra exited one of the cells scratching her head and walked toward the open shower area. Under the spray, she closed her eyes and lifted her face. The water gushed from the make-shift shower head. She ran her hands over her face and through short hair, allowing the water to cascade over her head and down the back of her neck. Moments later, she turned the water off, grabbed a towel from a ring and draped it around her body.
Dolores gave Cassandra a coquettish look as she walked past. “Aye paso!”
“The shower is still full of gnats.” Cassandra barked. Loud enough to warrant the attention of the deputies.
“The trick from the news up in here, Cass’.”
Dawn sat up on her cot, listening intently. Were they talking about her?
“Rondell? You remember him, don’t you? The father of your kids. That bitch is gonna turn state and send your man to prison for life! Is that what the fuck you want?!”
Dawn gasped and covered her mouth. They
talking about her. She would be killed in jail. Knifed to death like she’d seen on a TV show. Next week, The Daily Advertiser’s headline would read:
Dawn Miles killed in jail by a make-shift knife.
Cassandra turned around, facing Dolores. “What you want me to do, Dee? Go up in there, drag that bitch out here in front of you and those damn security guards, beat her ass, catch
motherfucking case, so I can get twenty-five years like your stupid ass?! Is that what the fuck you want?!”
“Quiet down, ladies!” A security guard yelled from the corridor.
“Fuck Rondell! You right, Dee. I got two kids waiting for my ass to get up out of here and that’s just what the fuck I’m gonna do—get the fuck up outta here. I’m sorry you got twenty-five years, but I still got a life outside. I ain’t trying to spend mo’ time in this motherfucker than I have to, ya dig?”
“I was just looking out for you, Cass’.”
“Naw, bitch. You trying to get a bitch locked up with your fat ass. Fuck that!”
Dawn muffled her cry in the palm of her hand and lied back on her cot.
“Don’t cry.” Ruthie slid from beneath Dawn’s cot and folded her arms behind her head. “You can’t let this place
those dirty heffas get to you. They will drag your ass as low as you let them.” Ruthie was a spindly girl with thin arms and legs and strong facial features. Her short nappy fro still held its stylish V-shaped cut at the nape of her long neck.
“What are you in here for?” Dawn’s lip trembled.
“Selling weed to an undercover cop.”
“Oh my God—“ she sat up, perched on an elbow.
“Girl, that ain’t shit. That bastard told me if I sucked his dick, he wouldn’t turn me in. Shit, I wasn’t sucking that fat motherfucker’s dick for nobody,” she shot Dawn a look, “This your first time being locked up, huh? You scary as hell,” she laughed.
“And my last.”
Cassandra entered. “Once you come to this bitch, you best believe you’re coming back. You
Dawn sat up quickly. Was she hiding the knife behind her back? In the waist of those awful orange pants?
“Don’t worry. I won’t bite you.” She leaned back against the cell bars.
“I don’t know Rondell.” Dawn quickly confessed. “I only knew one person in that beeper shop-- the guy I rode here with from Louisiana.”‘
“Did you know what was going down?”
“No. Not at all. He told me if I drove him to Winnie, Texas, he’d give me five hundred dollars. One of his trucks had broken down on the side of the highway—“
“One of his trucks?” Ruthie laughed.
“He owns a trucking company.” Dawn said.
“If he owns a trucking company, don’t you think he got people to take care of shit that break like that damn truck? Girl, you stupid! What he needed your ass for? You were a mule. That was a big ass drug bust. It was all over the news. Your face was plastered on TV. Those niggas were gonna use your car to bring all that dope back to Louisiana. Do your people know you’re out here?”
“I called them from holding last night.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“There’s not much I can do. My bond’s a million dollars.
“A million dollars?! How much dope did y’all have?!
“I don’t know. I didn’t see anything.”
“You got kids?” Cassandra asked.
“Kids? No. I still live at home with my parents and my brother.”
“I’m just trying to get up outta here, man, and see my kids.” Cassandra said with a grimace. “Fuck a man. Rondell ain’t nev’a been a daddy to them girls noway…did you see him there?”
“I have no idea who Rondell is. I only knew one person in the beeper shop. Wasn’t introduced to anyone—“
“Rondell owns X-Communications.”
Dawn pictured Kendrick, the six-foot-four thin African-American man with the dreads tied up on top of his head and how ridiculous she thought his hair looked against that god awful printed shirt he wore. She remembered the multiple piercings in his nose and ears and the tattoos on his face. “I’m not sure. Sorry.”
Cassandra was one of the six girls inhabiting Cellblock D at the Harris County Jail and now sat slumped against the bars, her legs outstretched, ankles crossed, the expression on her face vindictive.
“Well, you saw
“I don’t remember.”
Cassandra snorted, “You remember.”
“She remember!” Dolores yelled across from her cell.
“Leave her alone, Cass’. She said she don’t remember seeing Rondell. Why the fuck she gotta lie about that?” Ruthie interjected.
“I just ain’t seen him in a while, that’s all. Now, we both locked up. And if he was there when all that shit went down, he’s going to prison for a long time.” She sighed. “I’m worried about Lil’ Tae and Asia. My momma ain’t gonna keep my girls forever.”
And there they were. Four of the six young women locked up in Cellblock D of the Harris County Jail, all with problems the size of boulders resting on their pathetic shoulders. Bitter and inculpable young women, yet clueless about their future. It was midafternoon. Hot and humid temperatures rose above ninety-five degrees, but lucky for them, the beaming summer sun barely made its way through the single-barred window up above the wall-mounted television. The cellblock was expansive and cool due to the metal bars and cement floors. The two other women sat at the metal dining table reading a Spanish bible. Kristen and Sophia didn’t speak English. Kristen would just smile real big and say ‘thank you’ even if one of the girls told her she desperately needed a shower. She’d just flutter those long black eyelashes and smile. Sophia looked like she belonged in an 18
century love story. Porcelain pink skin, rosy lips and innocent eyes. Long thick hair wrapped in a bun on top of her head, curly tendrils drooped about her lovely face.
Who would’ve ever thought the duo were drug smugglers?
“You scared, huh?” Ruthie asked Dawn. “Wanna talk about it?”
Dawn didn’t respond. Even in that orange jumpsuit, she was a beautiful young woman with tanned skin, hazel eyes and long henna-colored hair. She was sitting Indian-style on the flimsy mattress with her arms crossed and her head laid back against the concrete wall. Cassandra could easily stab her in the throat.
“Talking about it ain’t gonna change nothing,” Cassandra, a medium built white girl with deep set eyes grumbled.
scared,” Dawn straightened and fixed her with a penetrable gaze. “Aren’t you?”
“I’ve been here too many times to be scared.” A smirk spread across her lips to ears spotted with keloids.
“The same shit. Selling dope to an undercover cop.”
“Ruthie!” Dawn exclaimed.
“Bitch ain’t learn her lesson yet.” Cassandra sneered, rolling her eyes. “Bet when I get outta here you won’t see me again.”
And I’ll probably never get out of here. “Why are
here?” Dawn asked.
“Probation violation. Drugs. Shoplifting. Fuck, the whole book. I gotta get my life right. Take care of my girls—“ Cassandra’s voice quivered. A tear fell from her eye. She swiped it away. Quickly, she climbed to her feet and exited Dawn’s cell and plopped herself onto her own hay-filled plastic mattress in the next cell.
“She’ll be alright.” Ruthie said. “She know she gonna have to do some time. Me, too. My lawyer said I’m looking at five years. This the third time I’ve been in this bitch for selling to a narc’. Them m’fuckers getting smart.” She laughed.
“Damn, Ruthie.” Dawn quipped. They giggled.
“I know, huh?” she sprawled herself on Dawn’s bed, a hand behind her head. Her dirty feet just inches from Dawn’s leg. “M’fuckas always coming after the ones who just tryin’a to make enough to eat.”
Dawn saw a sensitive and caring person beneath Ruthie’s street-wise exterior. She’d made tons of mistakes in her life, but her upbringing had a lot to do with the mischief. She was sure the girl was from a broken home, her mom was probably a drug user and her dad, she probably never knew him. When Dawn was searching for a way to pay a car note, Ruthie was desperately looking for her next meal. They were from two different worlds. And Dawn wished she’d never experience the life Ruthie lived.
Although she’d plummeted head-first into this one.