This is a chapter in my up coming Novel Willie. Please send any comments that you may have or share it with friends that might like reading this.
“Joe, it’s Bill, I’m in the city jail on Trent Avenue. They want $85 for bail, could you go to my place, I’ve got a few bucks stashed behind my TV inside an old chessboard. Just bring the box with you and I’ll make it worth your while.”
Joe finds the key under the mat just where Billy had said it would be. He opens the door, walks over to the big, wooden television cabinet and feels around behind it. The wooden box with the chessboard printed on the lid was there, just like he had said. Joe walks back to the door, opens it and starts to step out.
He hears the distinctive metallic click of a shotgun slide, jacking a shell into its chamber. He instinctively, slows to a snails pace, raising his hands.
“That’s right… nice and easy. Step out slowly and keep those hands up,” says a big, rugged looking, detective, that is holding the pump riot gun, dead center on Joe. There are five other men, two more in suits and the other three wearing police uniforms. All have their guns drawn. Joe has a bad reputation.
While the first detective keeps the shotgun on Joe the two other detectives carefully approach. One takes the chess set away from Joe, while the other slaps the handcuffs on and grabs Joe firmly by the back of his shirt and pushes him toward a waiting squad car. One of the detectives opens the chess set and pulls out a plastic bag of small, black capsules. He utters, “Black beauties… must be 300 here. Pal you’re in for some time.”
Immediately Joe knows two things; first if they do a record check on him he’s gone for at least five years without this bullshit charge, and second, Billy sold him out. Billy’s reward from Joe could wait he had bigger problems.
Back at the station, Joe calls Alice and fills her in. Without being told she knows what to do and as soon as she hangs up with Joe she calls the lawyer.
“Look honey, I won’t bullshit you. He’s fucked. He’s looking at a minimum of seven years,” says Joe’s lawyer.
The year is 1964. Alice, twenty–eight years old, thin and unassuming, wipes down the long white counter, straightening the stainless steel napkin holders, plastic bowls filled with packets of sugar and the pancake syrup as she works her way down to top off his coffee. She is wearing a pink dress and an apron with black trim.
The lawyer keeps wiping off the beads of sweat, that are forming on his huge, bulldog like face. Red-eyed, peering at Alice over the top of his black-rimmed glasses and looking like he crawled out of a laundry hamper, his gray suit and dark blue tie need pressing. He’s been representing Joe for the past 15 years. Although she has never meet him before, she has heard plenty, about all the times he’s gotten Joe out of serious beefs in the past. She also knows if he drove all the way from Dallas last night to make the arraignment, this must be bad.
“What about bail” she asks?
“Bail… yeah the judge offered bail. Five thousand and he can get out until the trial. You wouldn’t have five grand lying around would you?” he asks.
“We don’t have that kind of cash, we don’t have $500”, says Alice.
The cook taps the bell on the counter, “Order up, Alice,” he says, as he slides two, dinghy plates of ham, eggs and hash browns into the service window. Alice turns around and stacks the plates on one arm along with two smaller plates of buttered toast. Grabbing a coffee pot with her free hand, she takes care of her customers and comes back to the lawyer.
“How long does he have?” she asks.
“I’d say three or four days… after that his paper will start to catch up with him and they’ll rescind the bail offer. How are you holding up,” he asks?
“Well… I’m married to a man that lives in a world that I’m not supposed to know about. I thought he was working again… when he left yesterday morning… something in the way he was moving when he walked out the door… I could see he had something on his mind. Like he was being overly careful… apparently not careful enough! He has friends with that kind of money but I don’t know them. I’ve never been to jail or in any real trouble. I’ll be fine… if we can just get him out we could disappear.” The words tumble off her lips as a distant thought. Suddenly she snaps back into the coffee shop and has a look of clarity as she tells the lawyer, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine… we’ll be fine.”
Two hours later, across town Alice is wearing a scarf over her hair, a tan, full length, rain slicker and a pair of large, round, black sunglasses. Parking on the side of the building, she knows there is no turning back. She leaves the car running. Stepping from the car, with her heart almost jumping out of her chest, she tries to catch her breath, finding it hard to concentrate over the deafening rush of blood in her ears that sounds like a thundering locomotive. Walking into the bank, through the heavy glass doors, time is bending…moving sideways. Crossing the room, she feels like she’s wading, uphill, through a wall of honey. She watches what looks like someone else’s hand give, the teller the note. He reads it and reaches for the drawer… for the money. Yes… he’s putting the bills in a bank bag. Then she watches him slip his other hand under the counter. Lucidity gone, she barely registers the ringing of the alarm and wave of commotion. People start ducking and running in a slow-motion panic. And then like a sudden slap on a cold face in the dead of winter, the bank comes into sharp focus. The alarm is screaming. Every eye is on her. She is staring down the length of her arm, across the span, of the shiny black barrel, of an enormous revolver, that she is now pointing directly into the anxious eyes, of the bank teller, who is holding out the bag of cash. She grabs the bag and runs to the big glass door. Reaching for the brass push plate, she sees a massive fist, flash into the corner of her eye. The room suddenly flips sideways with a sickening crunch that throws her off her feet. Flying into the immense, plate glass door, face first, another smashing sound is followed by the warm rush of blood in her eyes and mouth.
She hears, “Don’t fucking move!” along with the distinct ‘click’ of a cocking pistol that is being pressed firmly against the back of her head. The blood dripping from her mouth, tastes like wet copper. Pain is shooting through the side of her smashed face and jaw. Oddly the marble floor feels cool… almost comforting to her cheek. Someone takes the pistol from her hand and then the bag of money. She is slowly rolled over by a bulky, middle-aged man, wearing a guard’s uniform. She hadn’t noticed him while entering the bank.
“A woman… it’s a goddamn woman! Just what were you thinking?” he mutters, while shaking his head.
Her trial was a mere formality. The judge gave her three years like he was sending her to summer camp. Doing three years in a State of Georgia work camp for women is like 50 years in the modern joints around the country. Alice was familiar with hard work. She had been working since she was 14, but this was something different. Her cellmates were mostly poor, angry blacks, bull dykes, and mentally ill housewives that had been thrown away by their husbands or hookers and junkies, any of whom will cut your throat, rape you or give you a beating in the showers as soon as talk with you. And then there are the guards; prison guards are the very bottom of the barrel. And women’s prison guards in Georgia are the worst of the worst. For the most part they are a bunch of uneducated, rednecks that love the idea of having control over a large group of trashy women that are in need of favors. Favors like; a shower once a week or seeing the doctor when they have a wound or a fever, or access to their lawyer.
In a women’s joint there are only a few forms of currency, drugs, cigarettes, weapons or violence and when all else fails for these women…the thing they’ve been trading all their lives, pussy.
Alice is a hard woman, but she has to fight almost everyday just to stay alive. The feds waited three months before coming to have a chat with her. She shows to the interview with a swollen lip and fresh, dark, bruise over her left eye and cheek.
“Look honey, all we want is the names of your husbands friends around the country. You give us five names that check out and we’ll arrange for there to be an error in your trial transcripts. You’ll go home and no one will ever know, not even Joe. We know that he’s connected. If you don’t go along we’ll make sure that you do every fucking day of your time in this shit-hole, no parole, no probation,” says the squeaky clean, fed wearing a gray suit and Ray-ban sunglasses.
Alice looks the fed that is doing the talking straight in the eye and says, “You must be mistaken… I have no idea what you’re talking about. So if we’re done I’d like to go back to my cell now.”