Authors: KM Rockwood
The cell was a small one, not meant to hold anyone for long. The bench was too short for me to lie down on, so I lay on the floor. There was just enough room for me to stretch out if I stuck my feet under the stainless steel one-piece plumbing unit. The floor was cold concrete, but I’d slept in more uncomfortable situations. Like shackled to another inmate on a prison bus as it made its rounds of the state’s correctional facilities to transport prisoners.
But I couldn’t fall asleep. Every time I closed my eyes, an all-too-vivid image of Kelly rose in my mind. I’d see her with her face battered and her clothes torn, and I couldn’t dismiss the picture. What had Belkins said? “Beat the crap out of her”? And Montgomery said she hadn’t regained consciousness. They were planning to file rape, kidnapping, and assault charges.
had happened to her?
Pressure was building in my chest and my head felt like it was about to explode. I was just coherent enough to recognize the symptoms of being thoroughly traumatized and in a state of panic. Jail cells tended to bring that out in me. No way could I get out of here. Or get any information Montgomery didn’t want to give me. I wanted to bang on the walls, shake the bars, scream for someone to tell me what was going on.
That wasn’t going to do any good, I reminded myself firmly. Anything like that and I’d find myself restrained. Possibly even medicated, if there happened to be a doctor in the jail at the time. I had to get a grip.
Not able to even keep still, much less sleep, I fell back on the prison coping tactic of doing pushups. It didn’t help how I felt a whole lot, but it did keep me from doing something stupid. Maybe it would tire me out, at least physically, so eventually I could fall asleep.
I skipped counting the pushups as I did them and tried to think logically. Unless the forensics lab was totally incompetent, or someone manipulated the report, I should be cleared of any rape charges when the DNA results came in. My DNA was already on file. That, at least, should throw some doubt into the idea that I’d been the assailant.
assailant. Had Kelly been attacked by more than one person? That was an uncomfortable thought.
How long would it take to get the lab results?
Kelly. My gut twisted into a cold knot.
What was going on? Was she going to be all right?
And why did I care so much? Hadn’t I learned over the years that the more I cared about anything, the more I got hurt?
Best bet was to not care about anything or anyone. I’d messed this one up, for sure.
I lay my head down on my hands on the floor and was able to doze.
Something clanged into the metal door from the hall and both the upper hatch and the port opened. I propped myself up on my hands and through the port I could see two inmate workers in kitchen whites pushing a cart. A correctional officer trailed them. Meal time. The CO stopped to talk with someone a few feet down the hallway.
I scrambled to my feet.
“So,” the short kitchen worker said, smirking as he peered through the bars on the hatch opening. He had to get up on his tiptoes to look in and see me. “We got us a sex offender here, do we? Rape, I hear?”
Amazing how fast information and rumors spread among the inmates in a place like this.
“Shut up, Cappy,” the other guy said.
“Screw you, too, Jerome,” Cappy said, picking up a filled food tray. He lifted the cover, sniffed the food, and grinned. Then he peered in at me again. “Hungry?” he asked me.
I wasn’t, particularly, but I knew I’d eat it all anyhow. I folded my arms in front of my chest and moved up to the hatch so I could see out. I narrowed my eyes and stared at him.
“What happened to your face?” Cappy laughed. “She put up a fight? That why you beat her up, too?”
I stood silently. The door and the bars separated us, and I was well aware that a camera was recording our every move.
“Just give him the damn tray,” Jerome said, holding up the cover to the port in the cell door.
Cappy spit on the floor and looked at the tray. “Why should I?”
Was he going to spit in my food?
Jerome glanced down the hallway to where the CO was still talking.
His eyes still on the tray, Cappy said to me, “You got nothing to say for yourself?”
I continued to stare at him. When I did speak, I didn’t raise my voice, and he stepped up to the bars in the hatch to listen. “You best hope you’re released by the time I hit the general population in this jail.”
The tray still in his hands, Cappy stepped back and raised his eyebrows. “Say now, no need for threats. I was just kidding.”
“I don’t do no kidding. And I don’t make no threats. I make
He shifted from one foot to the other, balancing the tray. “You do anything to me, you’ll pick up street charges. They got cameras everywhere.”
“You think I care?”
“You’ll go to prison.”
“No place I ain’t been before. And where do you think I’m headed now?”
The color drained from his face.
“So if I’m looking at street charges anyhow, when I do catch up with you, I’m thinking I’d best be sure what I give you makes it worth my while,” I said.
The CO’s voice came down the hallway. “You guys done down there?”
Jerome snatched the tray from Cappy and shoved it through the slot. “It ain’t bad,” he said to me, his voice quivering. “Meat loaf. And mashed potatoes. One of the better meals.”
I didn’t move.
Jerome shoved the tray forward a little further into the cell. “Take it,” he urged. “Cappy here, he don’t mean no harm. Sometimes he got no sense.”
The CO came up. “What’s taking so long?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Jerome said. “Just a few words with the new guy here.”
The CO looked at me. I wasn’t going to back off from trouble if it sought me out, but I wasn’t looking for any, either. Reaching for the tray, I pulled it into the cell. In as normal a voice as I could muster, I said, “Thanks.”
Cappy turned and pushed the cart down the hallway, hurrying away from me.
Jerome looked at me and swallowed, his eyes big. “No hard feelings?”
“Nope,” I replied.
The CO looked at us and shrugged. He closed the hatch and the port, then checked to make sure they were securely fastened.
All things considered, the meal wasn’t bad. If I’d been hungry, it might even have been good. As it was, my stomach was tied in a knot, but I forced myself to eat. No telling when I might get a chance to eat again.
As I was finishing, a CO showed up at the door. “Someone wants to see you,” he said.
I put the spoon and empty milk carton in the center of the tray, set it on the bench beside me and stood up. The concrete floor was cold through my socks.
“Door on Holding 2,” he said into his radio, and the door slid open. He escorted me down the hallway that smelled of disinfectant , through a grill, and stopped at another door.
“Conference room one,” he said into the radio. The door slid open to a small room with bright lighting. There was another door on the opposite wall.
Montgomery was seated at the table in the middle of the room. He gestured at a chair on the other side of the table. I sat. The door slid closed behind me.
Looking around the room, Montgomery said, “This is mostly for lawyers to meet their clients. A lot nicer than the interrogation rooms at the police station, huh?”
I glanced around. It
nicer. The walls were painted a soothing blue, and the furniture was clean and in good repair.
He bounced on his chair. “Even got padded chairs,” he said.
“True, that.” I touched the cushioned seat, then sat on it.
“Now,” he said. “Let’s get down to business.”
“Where’s Belkins?” I asked.
He laughed. “We discussed it. He wasn’t real happy about it, but we decided it would be better if I conducted this interview by myself. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say we’re being recorded, audio and video. And since the sheriff’s department, not the city police, run the detention center, I have no control over what happens to the recordings.”
I nodded. More than once Belkins had gotten impatient with my answers and smacked me. Since I was on parole, he knew I wouldn’t report it. But then those recordings weren’t admissible in court without getting him in trouble. So they just disappeared. Maybe the sheriff’s department didn’t believe in disappearing tapes.
Belkins was nearing retirement, but Montgomery was an up and coming detective, not about to let questionable evidence taint any case he might take to court. Especially not one that might well end up in a very public trial. He had a sharp eye to what might show up in the newspaper. And we both knew I was pretty newsworthy.
If I picked up another major conviction, I’d be looking at so much time, not to mention the backup time from my previous sentence, I’d have very little incentive to cop a plea. So a trial was likely to be long and well scrutinized. Unless the states attorney decided to make it a capital case. Then I’d have to seriously consider any plea bargain short of execution. An uncomfortable thought, but always a possibility.
“So.” Montgomery stretched his long legs out. His grey socks matched his impeccably tailored suit. The overhead light glistened off his highly polished shoes and shaved mahogany head. “Let’s talk about Kelly.”
I took a deep breath. How much was he going to tell me? “Is she going to be all right?”
He shrugged. “How was she when you left her?”
. We got out of work, and she said she had to go straight home.”
“That’s right; you said you had nothing to do with any assault on her.”
“It’s the truth.”
“And the last time you saw her was when you were leaving work.”
He leaned forward. “You’re not on home detention any more, are you? No ankle bracelet. So nobody was monitoring where you went. Did you follow her home?”
“No. She’s got a car. I don’t, so I walk. I went to the bank to cash my paycheck, and then I went to my place to get some sleep. Later I went out to run a few errands. And went to McDonald’s to get something to eat.”
“You know,” he said, leaning back in his chair, “I can see how it could happen. She leads you on. You’re pretty sure you’re gonna get some. Then for whatever reason, she changes her mind. Maybe she makes fun of you. So you get a little mad and take it anyhow.”
I just looked at him. “I wouldn’t do that. And I wasn’t there.”
He shrugged. “Any man could understand that. Happens all the time. Just tell me about it.”
wouldn’t understand it. Kelly deserves better.
woman deserves better. Wasn’t me. How’s she doing?” I could hear the quiver in my voice, so I shut up.
Montgomery thought for a minute before he answered. “Physically, she’s not too bad. Her shoulder’s kind of messed up—dislocated, I think, but not broken. And she’s bruised and sore, but no broken bones, no internal injuries that they see.”
“Was she unconscious the whole time?”
“I don’t think so. The doctor said we had to wait to go talk to her, that they’d given her something to help her sleep, but it got her all agitated, so they gave her something else, mostly for the pain. One of those rape crisis counselors was able to get in there and said she seemed a little calmer, but not what you’d call coherent.”
“So she’s not in a coma or anything?”
“I don’t think so.” He straightened the knot on his striped tie. “But she’s not really conscious, either. Kind of a restless thrashing around. Which is what they were trying to stop when they gave her the meds that were supposed to put her to sleep.”
“Is she’s gonna be okay?”
“Psychologically, I don’t know. Rape’s a hard thing for anyone to get over. Much less rape from someone you know. And maybe trust. She may never be able to trust anybody again.” He peered intently at me. “And, of course, she has to really wake up before they’ll know if she’s got brain damage.”
Looking down at the smooth table top and trying to keep any expression off my face, I said, “I didn’t rape her. I wouldn’t do that.”
Montgomery raised his eyebrows. “Rape her, or rape anybody?”
“Rape anybody,” I said, holding my voice as steady as I could. “But especially Kelly.”
“So if you wouldn’t, who would?”
“I dunno.” My shoulders tensed. “If I knew, I’d like to…” I let my voice trail off.
“You’d like to what?” Montgomery’s keen gaze remained glued to my face.
I forced my muscles to relax. “Nothing,” I was going to get myself in real trouble if I wasn’t careful.
He leaned back in the chair. “Tell me about this thing you got going with Kelly.”
I shrugged. “Not much to tell. We work together, on the same shift.”