The Hawk and The Chipmunk
John Grayson had no way of knowing it at the time, but September 18, 2004 was the beginning of the end of the worst time in his life. He was in the Arizona State Prison Complex - Lewis in Buckeye, about fifty miles southwest of Phoenix. Almost halfway through the fifth year of a life sentence for murder and possession of child pornography. However, it was totally irrelevant he was innocent.
It was the late afternoon exercise break in the yard, and though the sun was low in the western sky it was still able to make the temperature very unpleasant. Despite the dry humidity there was no air stirring within the courtyard formed by the walls and guard towers. John and his cellmate, Lester ‘Jumbo’ Washington, were standing against one of the guard towers trying to have a smoke and find a shady shelter from the unrelenting fireball in the sky.
While they talked John thought about the situation with his cellmate. Lester, or ‘Jumbo’ as most of the prison population called him, was six foot five, two hundred and eighty-five pounds of raw power. Some people might have called him a pimp, but according to him he’d been hired to protect a group of independent hookers who worked the convention trade in the Phoenix area. The fact he was paid a percentage of their take did probably blur the line. He was serving life for killing someone who was beating on one of the girls. At the worst, he should have been serving five to eight for manslaughter, but the fact the person he threw through a fifth story window was the white son of a prominent politician supposedly had nothing to do with his sentence.
When John had arrived at Lewis five years earlier he was only five-ten and weighed less than one forty. Someone in the system must have thought John deserved some extra punishment, so they placed the computer genius geek with a PhD in the same cell with this mountain of a black who’d only gotten through the fifth grade. It was an interesting social adjustment for both men.
John had heard all sorts of tales of homosexual rape and dominance, and was scared for his body, if not for his very life. Jumbo, on the other hand, had only had negative experiences from the rich, spoiled, young assholes who’d utilized the services of his girls, but who exhibited utter disdain for both him and the girls. To say Lester hated them was like calling Las Vegas a sleepy village, and when the guard told him about John he was ready for some payback.
What he wasn’t prepared for was this young, unassuming man to walk up to him and hold out his hand to shake in greeting. Instead of shaking hands Lester grabbed a handful of John’s uniform below his throat, and lifted John until they were looking at each other eye to eye. Looking deeply into the window of John’s soul Lester saw the fear he expected, but none of the arrogance, bigotry, and contempt he’d grown used to seeing in the young white men he’d known. At that moment the two of them quickly came to an understanding.
As Lester had told others, “I got ‘Sweetie’s’ asshole and shared his smokes; John got my promise to be gentle with that ten-inch monster of mine, and he got my protection from the rest of the prison population.”
John wasn’t overjoyed at the arrangement, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse. The funny thing was in a short time they’d actually become friends. John even helped Lester get his GED. As a lifer it wouldn’t really do him any good, but it helped his self-image a lot. At the same time, Lester taught John how to survive, how to read people, and even some self-defense. They both worked out with weights everyday, and John was now up to one sixty-five pounds and considerably more muscular than ever before in his life.
As for the sexual side, as Lester came to know the heart of this young man it all became a show to keep the other prisoners from bothering John. Many a night Lester had held his ‘Sweetie’ close and cried over the humiliation and pain he’d put John through in the first few weeks. John had tried many times to ease Lester’s conscience, but Lester’s heart was filled with such regret he couldn’t seem to be comforted, especially when he was fighting current sexual desires and needs.
One night John had offered to let Lester use him to gain relief, but he wasn’t prepared for the violent reaction he received. Lester had picked him up and thrown him across the room to his own bed, which was seldom used. While Lester screamed, “Don’t ever talk like that again! Do you hear me?”
The reaction had carried on for more than two weeks, with Lester refusing to say a word to John. Finally, waking up in the middle of the night to take a leak John heard Lester moaning and softly crying in his sleep. When he finished peeing John crawled in bed with Lester and cuddled up next to this giant black bear. At that point he realized there was a love between them that was deeper than most siblings. Not a love of passion and flesh, but a love of heart and mind. A deep caring about each other that would cast the destiny that was to come to pass that very day. The two men had been inseparable ever since.
John’s reflection of their relationship was suddenly shattered when he heard a girl’s scream through the window behind them. It was part of the entrance to one of the guard towers. It was off limits to inmates, but he didn’t think about that at the time. Instead, he just reacted. He burst through the door and rushed in to help. He’d later think, considering what he’d been through, it was amazing he would’ve even cared.
When John entered the room he saw a male guard unconscious on the floor. A female guard was being held down on the top of a desk. Her clothes were being ripped off by an inmate named Larry, but before John could react he was hit on the back of his head by something hard.
Sometime later John began to regain consciousness. He found his hands were cuffed behind his back, and his feet were bound in some manner, but not closely together. He heard voices, and instinctively knew to ‘play possum’ until he understood more of what was happening.
Carefully, opening his eyes until he could see thorough a narrow slit John realized he was crumpled in a corner far from the door. He could see Larry and another inmate, John thought his name was Jerome, arguing across a table. There seemed to be others in the room, but he couldn’t tell for sure, as there was a big black mass in front of him.
Opening his eyes further John realized the mass was Lester. John’s chest contracted like he’d been placed in a vice; the anguish made it difficult for his heart and lungs to function when he saw his friend, his ‘brother’ lying in a pool of blood. A ‘prison shiv’ (homemade knife) was sticking out of the side of his neck. At this point John’s sense of loss made nothing else seem to matter. He wanted to just curl up and join Lester, but memories of his friend refused to let him do that. John was no longer a victim, he was a survivor.
Through the anguish and pain, John heard a female voice whimpering from another area of the room. After some effort he was able to tune it out, and listen to Larry and Jerome. Piecing fragments of their conversation together he decided they had some crazy escape idea that had blown up in their faces. As a result, they were now sealed up in this single tower, and only them holding the female guard as a hostage was keeping the other guards from attacking. Larry was losing his patience and wanted to just kill everyone, but Jerome convinced him that would just buy them the death penalty. Before John could understand more he slipped back into unconsciousness.
Over the next few days, John drifted in and out of consciousness. He decided he must have been beaten pretty badly after he’d been knocked unconscious, because the pain throughout his body was excruciating. His primary memory of that time was that of a nude young woman bathing his face with water and trying to get him to suck water from the rag. He never saw Lester’s or the other guard’s body again.
As the time passed John began to have longer and longer spells of consciousness. He realized this nude woman was one of the guards, and she’d been trying to help him stay alive. She kept encouraging John to drink water, and she’d feed him small amounts of food from her plate. John wondered where the food came from, and later learned there had been a cache of food and water stored in one of the rooms in case the guards got caught in a prison siege.
One of those times John’s head began to clear significantly more than the previous days. He’d no idea how long he’d been like this, but he was certain it was more than just a couple of days. When his mind began to interpret what his senses were sending he realized the woman was gently wiping his face with a wet rag. She seemed to be softly singing to him some song his memory vaguely recognized.
When he heard the other two convicts yelling to someone outside he whispered, “Are you all right?”
She reached up and brushed her shoulder-length hair to the side. John had seen her around the prison before, but she’d always worn her hair in a bun. There were bruises on both sides of her face; most were the size of a man’s hand. There were also dark bruises on her pert breasts, and a couple of places that looked like burns. One of her nipples looked like it had been damaged, and there were other bruises on her ribs and thighs. She couldn’t look him in the eye when she said, “No. I feel so unclean. They haven’t raped me again, but they’ve done everything they could to get me to ask for it. I’m thankful you tried to save me, and I’m sorry your friend got killed in doing so. I’m afraid I’m really not worth it though.”
Jerome turned from the door, and said, “No talking, you two.”
She replied, “I’m trying to find out if he can hold some food down.”
“It don’t matter no how. There’s not ‘nough food to give him some anyway. We’s trying to bargain fo’ mo’ food and water, but since we let that other guard go, we ain’t got nuttin’ to trade with.”
Larry yelled out the door, “You’re just jiv’n with us. You got one hour, or we’ll start taking it out on pretty little ‘miss guard, ‘ here.”
After he slammed the door shut and propped the back of a chair beneath the doorknob as an extra deterrent Larry turned toward the others. His face was red with anger when he exclaimed in frustration, “I think they’re just stringing us along.”
Perplexed, Jerome loudly responded, “But why did yu’s give ‘em a threat like dat, man? Now, they’s gonna call our bluff, or else they’s gonna bust in dat door, shootin’ at everythin’ in sight.”
“That lying bitch of a warden just makes me so mad; I just lost my head. I’ll think of something.”
“Wells yu’s just do dat li’l thin, ‘ then, ‘cause I’s not ready to give up. I’s don’t wanna be shot, neither.”
While they were talking the guard helped John get into a more comfortable position. His hands were still cuffed behind his back, and the binding he’d felt at his ankles was his coveralls. They’d pulled them down and twisted them several times to make them like the hobbles used on horses. This had left him completely bare over the rest of his body, and he was surprised he hadn’t earlier realized he was nude. As John’s eyes took in the rest of his surroundings he realized he was sitting in some kind of low tub he suspected was used to catch his body wastes. In addition to the pain, John realized how weak he felt, so he softly asked her, “How long has it been?
This revelation almost overloaded John’s fragile emotional system, taking almost all his remaining reserves to keep from screaming as he responded, “Twelve days?”
She nodded, her eyes cast downward like she was too ashamed to look John in the eye. He couldn’t understand why she should feel that way, but instinctively, he knew that was her problem. He wanted to encourage her, to tell her it was OK, to put his arms around her to comfort and protect her during this time.
When he thought about his arm pulling this attractive nude woman close to his own nude body his body did what was quite natural for the circumstances; blood started to engorge John’s penis. Because the nude guard wouldn’t look up she was staring straight at it while it became harder and harder.
John understood this had to be adding to her embarrassment, so, trying to down play the sexual side he said, “I’m sorry about that. That often happens when I first wake up.”
Feeling his compassion she looked up, smiled, and said, “It’s OK, I understand. In fact, it’s nice someone still thinks I’m pretty, rather than just an object to be used for sexual gratification. By the way, my name is Brenda.”
“Brenda, I’m John.”
“I know, I read your file. You’re a puzzle to many of us in here. You just don’t fit the profile.”
“What profile? Anyone can kill someone under the right circumstances.”
“We know that. No, what I’m talking about, is being a pedophile.”
“I’m not.” Before the conversation could continue, Larry started yelling at her again.
She replied, “He hasn’t really eaten anything in twelve days. We need to get something into his system, or you may have another dead inmate to account for; not only to the authorities, but to your fellow inmates. Lester and John had a lot of respect out there in the yard.”
She’d hit on something they hadn’t thought about: anger and retaliation from the other prisoners. They were already in here for life, and thought they’d nothing to lose, but now they weren’t so sure. Finally, Larry said, “OK, give him a little something. He shouldn’t eat much though, ‘cause I don’t want him ‘tossing his cookies’ in here. Hell, the smell is bad enough as it is.”
She slowly got up and went to the refrigerator. Finding nothing she wanted she looked in the small pantry beside the microwave. After plundering for a few moments, she came out with something in her hand. “I think this should help get you some nourishment,” she said.
Larry responded, “What did you find to give him, bitch?”
She held up one of those dried ramen noodle soups in a Styrofoam cup when she replied, “This soup.”
Larry grumbled something to the effect dried up noodle soup was rather appropriate for John. She heated some water in the microwave, and poured it into the cup. She covered the cup to let the dehydrated noodles, vegetables, bouillon, and spices soak up the water, and she returned to where John was leaning against the wall. “Since I’m going to have to feed you by hand, I need to get you up higher.”
She pulled a chair closer and carefully pulled on John’s arm while he tried to get his feet beneath his body. Together they were able to get him standing, but he was very weak, and his head was spinning. It took her several minutes, but she was finally able to get John out of the shallow pan and carefully sat him down in the chair she’d positioned next to it. When she felt he was stable enough she went to the sink to wash a spoon. She was carefully stirring the soup that had formed in the cup while she returned to where John was sitting, and saying, “I wish there was something better, and I hope it doesn’t make you sick; I don’t know how long it’s been in there.”
John tried to give her a reassuring smile when he responded, “I don’t think those soups go bad. It’ll be fine for my first meal.”
She sat down in another chair next to him and carefully began to put small spoonfuls of broth in his mouth. At first it was almost too hot, but gradually it seemed less likely to scald his tongue. She fed him very slowly, allowing him to set his own pace. John wasn’t sure if it was because she realized how slowly his system would absorb the nourishment, or if she was just trying to mentally push aside the time remaining on Larry’s ultimatum.
While this had been going on John had been watching their two captors who’d alternately argue with each other or just complain in general. Occasionally Larry would go to the door, open it just a crack, and yell out the time remaining. The only response was silence. At least, for the moment, they were leaving Brenda and him alone.
About half way through the cup of soup John started having trouble swallowing. His system hadn’t had much in it but small amounts of water for a while, and the spices in the hot soup caused his throat to swell. Brenda tried to give him some water to wash them away, but for some reason it didn’t help. Finally, she went to the refrigerator and after scrounging around for a moment she brought him a Dr Pepper.
Larry asked, “What’cha giving him that for?”
“His throat is swelling and the water didn’t help. I was going to try this. I didn’t think it mattered. Neither of you will drink it, anyway.”
“OK, give it to him, but don’t take too long.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t go faster, his system won’t take it.”
Jerome butted in, and said, “Then maybe yu’s should stop and come over here.” He grabbed his crotch and added, “Maybe your body needs some nourishment too; like a big protein shake.”
Larry gave him a deadly look, and said, “Just let her alone.”
Jerome stood up and walked around. “OK, OK. I’s just funnin’ her a bit.”
When he came to the side of Larry he suddenly turned and stabbed him in the neck with a shiv. It was probably the same one that killed Lester. Larry fell to the floor, gasping for air and trying to remove the shiv. Jerome kicked at him and said, “I’s tired of yu’s white bossin’ shit. Liken yu’s the only one with any brains. Well, yu’s brains are on the flo’ now. Does yu’s still feel better’en me?”
Brenda and John were stunned, and before either could act Jerome came across the room, and knocked the soda and soup from her hand. He then pushed her out of the way and gave John a solid blow to the side of the face. Jerome was obviously surprised when John was able to stay in the chair, but when he started to hit John a second time Brenda launched herself at him.
He must have sensed her coming, because before she got there he swung around and backhanded her hard. The strength of his blow knocked her across the room and against the table. He turned back to John and grabbed him by the hair. Pulling backwards he forced John to look up at him.
“Listen,” he said, “yu’s nothin’ but J’bo’s white ‘pussy boy.’ When we’s get back inside, yu’s gonna be my ‘ho.’ But ‘fo da man comes and gets us, I’s gonna have me a piece of some fine white ass. So yu’s just sits there and see how I’s gonna dick you.”
Still holding John by the hair Jerome jerked John’s head forward hard enough to leave him slightly stunned. Jerome mocked John while he turned and walked over to Brenda. He stuck his finger in his mouth to wet it and then shoved it hard, pushing it as far up inside her as it’d go. Both men knew she had to be dry; the harsh action causing her intense pain, in addition to the anguish associated with the upcoming rape. Though they both knew the physical result the emotional aspect was quite different within each man. To Jerome it was just another act of power and humiliation to tear at those whom he saw as keeping him from assuming his rightful place in the world, but within John came the initial stirrings of blind rage. John watched, seemingly helpless while Jerome had Brenda stretched backwards over the table he and Larry had been sitting at just a short time earlier. He held his hand over her mouth while he moved his big finger around inside her for maybe forty-five seconds. Pulling out his finger and licking it, he said, “I’s guess yu’s wet ‘nough.”
He unzipped his pants and pulled out this huge black dick. It looked bigger than one of those over-sized cans of malt liquor. He grabbed hold of her throat and spread her back across the table. Her legs were hanging down toward the floor. While he positioned that black monster at the opening of her vagina he keep talking trash to her about how he was going to ruin her for white men, and how she’d never be satisfied with a white boy again.
While Jerome was doing these things all John could think about was the pain and humiliation she’d experience by taking that massive prick, even if Jerome had succeeded in moving her beyond the dry stage, which he seriously doubted. Finally the rage within John grew into a consuming fire. Maybe it was the way she’d treated him, or the softness of her voice or just a reaction to the brutal act on a woman, but John just snapped.
Between the soup, the sugar in the Dr Pepper, and a massive shot of adrenalin caused by his anger, John found the strength to suddenly launch himself across the room as hard as his hobbled legs could carry him. The Banshees should have given him a medal for the screams he uttered that day.
Jerome was astonished by the sight of the screaming smaller white boy who was moving across the room so quickly. Like so many bullies the very concept this ‘pussy boy’ would attack him caused him to momentarily freeze. While he was still too mentally stunned to move John hit him in the lower chest / stomach area with all the force he could put into his shoulder under the circumstances. The force of John’s blow knocked the breath out of Jerome and shoved him toward the door to the outside. His momentum caused him to fall over the chair that was reinforcing the door, and when he hit the floor his head hit the concrete block wall, knocking him unconscious.
On the other hand, John’s momentum caused his body to push Brenda off the table, and onto an old sofa that was to the side. Being the one pushed caused Brenda to land first, followed by John, whose body ended up between her legs. Realizing what had happened she smiled up at John while she reached down and grabbed his penis. “Thanks! You deserve this,” she said while she shoved her hips upward, driving John’s erection deep in to her.
The problem was those outside heard the noises, and had chosen that moment to attack. The door was thrown open, and a flash-bang grenade was thrown in, along with a tear-gas canister. As soon as they went off gas-masked guards in SWAT clothes carrying shotguns and MP5’s burst into the room. One of them found Jerome, unconscious on the floor.
Another SWAT team member found John naked on the couch superimposed on top of a naked Brenda. Thinking he was in the middle of raping her the guard started beating on John, starting with the butt of a shotgun, and then continuing with a baton. He and others must’ve beat on John for ten minutes or more, ignoring Brenda’s screams for them to stop. John was unconscious, and almost dead, long before they stopped.
The stern matronly woman sat behind her desk studying the young woman who sat in front of her. The file on John Grayson lay open on her desk. Also in the room were several friends from her past. Deke Templeton, the right hand man of the Arizona Attorney General; Elizabeth Johnson, a noted psychologist and a Professor at the University of Arizona; and Zed Andrews, retired investigator for the CID (Criminal Investigations Division) and now a Captain with the Volunteer Arizona Rangers. Finally, she said, “Brenda, are you certain this man wasn’t with the others?”
“Yes, Ma’am. He ran into the room when the first prisoner, Larry, was trying to rape me. He was like a white knight charging into unknown danger to save the helpless damsel in distress.”
The lady smiled, and said, “Brenda, you’ve been reading too many of those romance novels.”
“Ma’am, I may have, but that’s the best way to describe it. Unfortunately, the other one, Jerome, was standing to the side of the door. He hit Grayson in the back of the head with the butt of the shotgun he’d taken from my asshole partner.”
“Brenda, we’ll get into that situation at another time. Where does Lester Washington come into play?”
“He followed John Grayson into the room. He saw Grayson get hit, and he hit Jerome with his fist. He then pulled Larry off me and threw him across the room. He then went to Grayson, and bent over him like he was going to gently pick Grayson up in his arms and carry him out of there. Jerome was getting himself up from the floor. He removed something from his shoe, I think it was a shiv, and stabbed the bent over Lester in the neck with it.”
Looking intently at the young woman she said, “So you think both these two men were heroes?
“What kind of answer is that?”
“Well, there’s no doubt in my mind Grayson twice tried to save my virtue, as well as my life. I think Washington cared more about Grayson than he did about me. Jerome called Grayson, Lester’s ‘pussy boy, ‘ and said he was going to make Grayson his whore. So there must have been something sexual between them.”
“Then Grayson is gay?”
“No more than Bill Clinton. I think he was forced into ‘an accommodation, ‘ in order to live. We all know those things go on here. Especially when you put someone Grayson’s size in with someone Washington’s size. Was that by accident, or someone’s idea of a cruel joke?”
“Well, it’s not official, but it wouldn’t surprise me the ‘powers that be’ among the guards would do something like that with a known pedophile.”
“Well, I don’t think he’s a pedophile. In fact, after reading his file and watching him, I’m not sure he was guilty at all.”
Deke Templeton cleared his throat and said, “Why is that?”
“Mister Templeton, there are just several things that don’t add up. One thing was no paraffin test was ever performed to prove he actually pulled the trigger.”
“But he confessed.”
“He confessed to trying to take the man’s gun away from him. It’s days later when there would’ve been no traces of nitrate before his wife’s story started falling apart.”
“But what does that matter?”
“It could matter a lot. I think this man deserves a review of the situation, and for someone to listen to what he says.”
The woman behind the desk looked at the others. After a few moments, they all nodded.
She leaned back in her chair and said, “I just have one more question. If this man wasn’t raping you when the other guards broke in, why were his coveralls down around his ankles, and his penis in your vagina?”
“He also had his hands cuffed behind his back,” Brenda said. “Larry and Jerome had pulled his coveralls down to his ankles while he was unconscious. They twisted them to make it like a hobble you’d use with a horse. They did that to him to reduce his mobility, as they saw him as a potential threat. As for his penis being in my vagina, or his cock in my pussy, I put it there and lunged up to force it deep. It’s the only way I could think of to reward him.”
“Are you in love with this man?”
“No. In the right place and time I might be attracted to him. But the way he acted and spoke said he cared about me as a person, not as a woman to screw, or a conquest, or even a friend. He seems to have a natural desire to help those in trouble.”
“OK then, it’s agreed we’ll talk to John Grayson.”
“Yes, Elizabeth, or should I call you Doctor Johnson?”
“Mary Beth, we’ve known each other too long for that.”
“Good, then call me Mary Beth, not ‘Warden.’ What are you thinking?”
“Mister Grayson is still in the hospital, and is highly sedated. I know what I learn can’t be used as evidence, but I’d like to run some tests, and ask him some questions while he’s in this condition.”
“You have my permission. Anybody else?”
“Mary Beth, I vaguely remember this case, and it seemed like there were some unusual transfers of lab and investigative personnel at about that time. I’d like to investigate that side of it.”
“Thanks, Zed, I’d appreciate it. Deke, anything on your end?”
“Well, I guess I could look at the lawyers for both sides, as well as the judge. I’d look to see if anything strange has developed since this case was first tried.”
“Like strong ties that didn’t exist before the trial?”
“Or something like that.”
“That would be an excellent approach. Gentlemen and Doctor, we all know justice is blind, but sometimes we also know hindsight is twenty-twenty. I’d love nothing better than to find something crooked in this case. I never trusted the previous administration, anymore than I trust all those maps to the ‘Lost Dutchman Mine’ that you can buy on the street corners in Apache Junction.”
When they all started to file out the Warden said, “Brenda, could you please stay for a moment?”
When everyone had left and the door closed Mary Beth came around her desk to stand beside Brenda.
She put her hand on Brenda’s shoulder, and said, “Brenda, this must have been an awful experience for you. I’m very sorry it happened. I hope you also understand why I didn’t want any of those here today, to know of our relationship. I wanted them to keep an open mind, and not let friendship cloud their judgment.”
“Aunt Beth, I understand, and it really was traumatic. They tortured me and did everything they could to get me to beg them to have sex with me. Then, technically, it wouldn’t have been rape. But I didn’t break. Instead, I became stronger and surer of myself. A turning point for me happened when I was tending John’s wounds, and trying to get him some food. He got an erection, and apologized for it. It suddenly told me I was still a desirable woman. I knew my life wasn’t over. When he risked his life a second time to save me I just knew, no matter what, I was strong enough to face it. That was why I shoved his penis in my vagina and forced him inside me.” Chuckling, she added, “I guess, technically, I raped him. But, for some reason, I suspect he’ll not be pressing charges.”
Her Aunt replied, “No, I suspect he won’t. At the same time, Darling Niece, you’ve broken a serious rule here about sex with the inmates. I suppose we could say his momentum carried you both onto the sofa and the penetration that occurred was by accident. I think that’s the way it should read, officially.”
“Thanks, Aunt Beth.”
“Now, when are you going to stop bringing home strays? Dogs and cats were bad enough. But now a man convicted of murder and possession of child pornography? Isn’t that going too far?
“I guess it depends if he was riding to rescue me on a ‘white charger.’“
Returning to her chair Mary Beth smiled when she replied, “Yes, I suppose it does.” Then leaning back she asked, “Honestly, how are you doing?”
“OK, other than an occasional odd look from one of the guards. I’ve noticed quite a few of them with erections.”
Mary Beth’s eyes flew open while she exclaimed, “Erection, erection, erection!”
Quickly flipping through the folder on her desk she queried, “Where is that comment about erections? Brenda dear, would you please get me some fresh tea? Get yourself something, too. I need to find something in here about erections.”
“Would you like something with it?”
Looking up she replied, “Yes, but my waist and hips say I can do without. Get something for yourself, if you want. I think there may still be some carrot cake in the refrigerator in the kitchen of the administrative dining room. Tell Nancy, the cook, to fix me some tea and to get you whatever you want.”
“That sounds yummy. I’ll be back in just a few minutes.”
Mary Beth sat up close to the desk. With her head bent over and resting against the inside of her left hand she scanned quickly through the file on her desk. She was concentrating so hard she never heard her Niece return, nor did she realize that she’d started sipping on the tea that had been placed under her right hand while she read.
Finally a large grin spanned her face, and she shouted, “Eureka!”
“Did you find something, Aunt Beth?
“I most certainly did, my child. Call the others on their cell phones, and see if they can meet us at ‘Mi Casa, ‘ near the Desert Sky Mall, in a little over an hour. Tell them I’ve discovered something very important.”
Brenda made the calls, and everyone agreed to the meeting. Within a few minutes Brenda and her Aunt left the prison facility at Buckeye, headed for the City of Phoenix. Brenda was even more surprised at how fast her Aunt was driving. Due to the concentration needed to drive like that nothing was said until after they arrived.
The restaurant had valet parking, and when they both exited the car Mary Beth was carrying a thick folder in her arms, pulled up close to her breasts. They entered and found Elizabeth was there, but the others had yet to arrive. Elizabeth had selected a round table for six in a remote corner, and was already nursing a margarita.
Looking at the condensation forming on the sides of the salt-encrusted glass Mary Beth turned to the waiter and pointed to the glass. “Please bring me one of those.” When Brenda tugged on her arm, she added, “Better make that two.”
Mary Beth sat to the left of Elizabeth while Brenda slipped in on Mary Beth’s left. Before they could get settled the drinks and their other two friends arrived at the same time. Deke and Zed gave the waiter their orders.
As the waiter left Deke said, “Mary Beth, we have got to get together more often. I see you so seldom I almost forget how pretty you are.”
Laughing at his remark she said, “Deke, you’re so full of it you could fill a stable, a large stable. How does your sweet wife put up with you?
Zed added to the teasing by saying, “What makes you think she does? I keep hearing rumors she’s trying to hire a hit man, but we can’t get any evidence. They say she’s offering a hundred grand.”
Deke laughed and said, “For a hundred grand, I’ll do the job myself!”
This sent everyone into hysterics. Finally, Deke turned serious. “My dear lady, something very important must have come up to call a second meeting like this.”
Brenda had been taking a sip of her margarita when Deke made the statement containing the obviously unrealized pun: ‘come up.’ She spewed her drink over the entire table. While Brenda was trying to clean up everyone, as well as the table, Mary Beth was trying to stifle her own laughter at the situation.
Mary Beth said, “You must excuse my Niece, she’s not house broken, yet.”
Everyone turned toward Brenda with surprise, and said, “Your Niece?”
“Yes, this unfortunate wayward child is my Niece. I wasn’t going to say anything before, because I didn’t want to cloud your judgment. But I think we can safely say we’re past that point, now.”
There were now additional greetings given to Brenda, in the light of this new understanding, and the obviously deeper expressions of sympathy for what she had endured.
When they finished Mary Beth said, “After everyone left this afternoon Brenda and I had a little chat about what happened, and what she’d experienced. She said something that triggered a memory I’ve found to be of utmost importance. In a minute, Deke, you’ll find out why what you said set off this miniature version of ‘Old Faithful, ‘ here.”
Turning to Brenda, Mary Beth said, “I need you to repeat, in your own words, about how you were feeling about yourself. Tell us about what happened when you were feeding John, and then what happened when he tried to save you at the end.”
“OK, as I told Aunt Beth, they tried to break my spirit. After the initial rape they used torture, nudity, and verbal abuse to try to convince me no one would ever find me desirable again; that I was ‘tarnished goods.’ I suspect they thought if they broke my spirit I’d beg them to take me, thus eliminating the rape charge. When I was feeding John some soup I found I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eye. When I looked down, though, he had an erection. This helped me realize I was still a desirable young woman. At that point my confidence and self-assurance began to return. John apologized for his erection, but he still had it when he rushed Jerome to keep him from raping me. When our momentum carried us to the sofa I was on the bottom and John was on the top. By a sheer accident his penis penetrated my vagina.”
Mary Beth asked, “Are you certain he had an erection?”
Giggling, Brenda answered, “It was very hard, and felt good, before those other guards started beating on him. They wouldn’t stop, no matter what I said.”
Mary Beth continued, “Deke, that’s why she reacted the way she did to your ‘something important coming up’ remark. Now she doesn’t know the facts here, only that I became excited and started screaming ‘Erection! Erection!’“
Elizabeth interjected with, “I certainly hope your secretary didn’t overhear you at that moment. That little scene would be very difficult to explain.”
When the laughter died down Mary Beth continued, “This folder contains a copy of all the pertinent data on the case of Mister John Grayson. Let me read you a passage. This is from the investigator’s notes. ‘After further questioning Missus Grayson about their marriage she began to hint things weren’t normal. When I pursued this line further she kept hinting Mister Grayson had a rather kinky fetish. After more questions she broke down and said it was impossible for Mister Grayson to get an erection without looking at pictures of little girls, and the only time they had sex was for her to dress like a child, and straddle his lap while he looked at pictures on the computer.’”
Mary Beth paused for this to sink in. Finally, a few moments later, she explained. “It’s this revelation by his wife, over a week after the shooting, that became the basis for the search warrant and confiscation of Mister Grayson’s computer. There they found a large amount of child pornography. In addition, in a hidden file, they found detailed and graphical notes of how he planned to kill his wife’s boss, and make it look like self-defense.”
Incredulously Deke replied, “More than a week after the killing they go get a computer that’s been open to anyone, and from that build a case of murder. I bet his attorney had a field day with that.”
“No. He never questioned it.”
“He what!!!!!!” Even Brenda joined their scream of astonishment.
“He never filed a brief to suppress the evidence as tainted. He never appealed to the judge, or to a higher court, and he never challenged the jury to use this as a basis for reasonable doubt. Then from my Niece we hear how this young man apologized for having an erection due to her nudity. Then later, it was still firm enough to penetrate her seldom used vagina entirely in one movement. Now, I don’t know about you three, but I think something is very rotten here. In fact, it smells so bad I think this should radically shift the emphasis of our quiet little investigation.”
Zed nodded, and then said, “You realize this could cost you your job, Mary Beth?”
“Zed, despite the fact I’m getting older (or maybe because of it) I have to spend time every morning in front of a mirror trying to make myself look presentable.”
Zed interposed, “And you do a good job of it, I may add.”
“You old goat, are you flirting with me?”
Zed said, “Maybe a little, but it’s actually just an honest observation. I’m not sorry for what I said, but I’m sorry for interrupting you. Please continue.”
Mary Beth smiled a very warm and pleasant smile while she continued. “I will. But we’re going to have a private conversation, later, concerning your remarks. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. I don’t think my conscience would let me put my job above doing what was right, even as a private citizen. If it gets to that point they can take this job and shove it so far up their asses they can observe their tonsils from the inside.”
Zed replied, “Woman, I like your attitude. If they fire you, you can always come to stay with me at the ranch. It gets pretty lonely out there since Maria died.”
“Zed, is that a proposal?”
“It could be.”
“Then we’re definitely going to have a private conversation on this matter, but this isn’t the time or the place. Do any of the rest of you have any comments?”
Brenda snickered, “About the presentable, the offer, or the ‘private conversation’?”
Mary Beth rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, and said, “Well, Gang, you’ve just seen a prime example of why they say ‘relatives and fish both smell after three days.’ No, I’m talking about John Grayson.”
Deke looked at the others and caught their nods. He then said, “Mary Beth, you’ve been a dear friend to all of us, over the years. I think we all agree with you there’s something rotten, here. Whether we can prove it enough to get his conviction overturned, or to get the governor to give him a pardon, is another matter. The key point you’re making is we have to try to rectify this seeming travesty of justice. In that, I think we all agree. I do have one question, though.”
“What does Zed have that I don’t have?
Mary Beth’s eyes were dancing brighter than they had in many a year, as she thought about what Deke had asked. Finally she looked at Deke and answered, “It’s what you do have, that Zed doesn’t -- a wife.”
Laughing himself, he replied, “Oh. But what if I remedied that situation?”
Her face turned very serious as she said, “Under the light of what we’re talking about, I think we need to let that line of teasing go.
The chastened Deke replied, “Sorry. I just got caught up in the teasing, and our love for you over the years. I’ll tell you some surprising things, sometime.”
“Like marrying Tracy because she reminded you of me, and you knew I’d never desire you in that way?”
Shocked, Deke asked, “You knew?”
“Deke, my darling friend, Tracy and I both knew it from the beginning. She and I had a long talk. When I realized she accepted our relationship, and when she knew I wouldn’t be jealous she and I became close friends. Who do you think she goes to Vegas with on her ‘little jaunts’?”
“She says it’s with a couple of women friends.”
Elizabeth added, “Those friends are Mary Beth and myself. Now, I suspect this conversation could go on for a good while, but we need to stay focused here. Tell us about this John Grayson.”
Mary Beth replied, “I’ll give you some highlights, but there’s much about the person I don’t know. He was born in Opelika, Alabama. When he was eight they discovered he had a genius IQ. His parents owned a small Dry Cleaners, and didn’t have the money to send him to a special school. He was so bright and so eager to learn his teachers volunteered to help him after hours. This enabled him to skip several grades along the way. He graduated from high school at fourteen. He attended Auburn for a year, and then transferred to Stanford where he earned a Bachelors and a Masters in Computer Science, in just three years. He then went back to the south where he got an Accounting Degree from Georgia State, and finally an MBA from Georgia. What’s more, when he moved here to Phoenix to work for a software firm, developing business uses for the Internet, he wasn’t old enough to buy a beer.”
“And what did you have him doing at the prison?”
“Making furniture. And just like everything else he has done, he excelled at it.”
Zed asked, “What about money? During that time, I can’t imagine that kid not being loaded.”
“There’s nothing here on it, but I suspect it’s something we want to seriously review. It seems I remember a line from an old Robert Redford movie: ‘Always follow the money. That’s where the truth lies.’“