‘Lady’ had been fondled, kissed, licked and fingered for over an hour tonight. She remained stoic and stonelike. Tina had become more than a little frustrated with the lack of gratitude ‘Lady’ gave her.
“You want my protection or d'ya want I just let all these dykes have a round or two with you?” Tina was angry at her lover who was so cold and unfeeling.
“No! Please. I can’t take it no more. Jesus is watching and I 'm goin' to Hell 'causa you!” It was the first time ‘Lady’ had opened her mouth in protest since the first time so many months ago.
“Yer probably right, but it ain’t ‘causa me. Yer fergetting the times you moaned. That weren’t cause you didn’t like it, ‘Lady’.” Tina sneered and pulled ‘Lady’s’ hair, yanking her up off the bunk. “Who d'ya think you is? Miss Purity? If it weren’t fer me, you’d be beaten up, shanked and left for dead. Maybe you’d like that fer a change.”
“No!” ‘Lady’ cried out.
“Then yer gonna act grateful. Yer gonna love me back. We’ll get along just fine. You’ll have an easy time and then go home to yer white trash life with yer old man and kids.” Tina lay down on her bunk, rolled over and said no more.
‘Lady’ lay silently, no tears this time. She had to steel herself so she could survive the next year or two. She’d get out on good behavior. The doc would write the recommendation. The guards and the warden would, too. She just had to hold on in any way she could. That night she made the decision. She would become the lover. She would deal with the consequences when she got out. She might go to Hell but she would be with her family until then.
Sheriff Walker answered the phone, his secretary gone for lunch five minutes earlier. His deputy was out patrolling. He hated answering the phone. Whoever it was would want to talk his ear off and he had better things to do than listen to some old biddy tell her life story. But, he answered the phone anyway. “Sheriff, this is Tom Dickson over to the Motel 6. We had a robbery this morning and I need you here.” Dickson came to town about a month after ‘Lady’ had been sentenced and transferred to the women’s prison. He demoted Mrs. Rasmussen back to Housekeeping supervisor and she was fit to be tied. She thought she was set to stay manager when this outsider was introduced by the district manager. So he had some college. Who needs college to do this job? Mrs. Rasmussen stayed on but she was skating on thin ice for poor performance.
Dickson had been there less than four months when he started seeing discrepancies in inventory. It took him another two before he figured out what was going on. He found unopened mail in the back of a file cabinet. He found invoices that didn’t match the ones in the office file. He found payroll documents that didn’t add up to what he was seeing with his own eyes.
Sheriff Walker left his office as soon as the deputy strolled in with a burger and coffee. “Gotta go, Ted. Problems at the motel.” He placed his hat on his head, adjusted his belt and left to make the call.
Dickson sat behind his desk in the motel office. Across from him was another man dressed in a business suit, hair all in place and shoes shined like the military. When Sheriff Walker entered, both men stood. Introductions were made, then all three sat.
“Sheriff, this is Wayne Henderson. Mr. Henderson does consulting work for the plant on a regular basis so is a guest here every few months. He returned to his room last night after working late and found the cash he’d left a drawer missing.
“It was almost $400.00, Sheriff,” Henderson said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was here about eight or nine months ago and actually left cash on the bed by mistake. I found it neatly folded and placed on the bed stand when I got back from the plant. That was probably more like $500.00 since I had another city to visit before I went home. I felt like an idiot for just leaving it lying around but, on the other hand, my faith in people was bolstered when I saw the maid had left it for me to find. I figured my money was safe here since there seemed to be some honest staff here.”
“What room did you stay in this week?” The sheriff asked, more than taken aback by the naivete of some folks.
“I always stay in 215. Kind of helps me to keep my bearings if I can have the same room,” Henderson replied. “You know, living out of a suitcase like I do.”
“Dickson, who is the maid assigned to that rack of rooms?”
“It’s Annette Herman, Sheriff.”
“Any problems with her before?”
“Not that I can say for sure. I’ve been doing an audit and have some problems with inventory counts and recortd keeping, though.” Dickson held his hands out and open as if to show he had big questions about this place.
“What about Rasmussen?” Walker asked.
“Oh she and I have our problems but she keeps to herself and the maid staff pretty much. Only sees me when she arrives and goes home at the end of the day. I insist on that. I have been thinking of letting her go. She isn’t much of a team player and seems to slack off more than not. I had to put her on probation when I’d only been here a little while. She shaped up for a few months after.”
Sheriff Walker stood, adjusted his belt and shook Mr. Henderson's hand. “I will file the report. Can’t say you’ll ever see the money again but you reported it early. We might have some luck.”
“Dickson, I need to talk to your staff her in your office. Mr. Henderson, I’ll be by your room when I finish here to complete the report and let you know what we found out.”
“Thank you, Sheriff.” Henderson and Dickson left the office together. Sheriff Walker called his office to let them know he’d be awhile. He waited, pen and pad ready to take more notes. He hit the speed dial on his two-way and called the judge.
“I need search warrants, Harry. There is an investigation I need to do at the Motel 6.” The sheriff gave the details. He listened while the judge responded with his requirements before he’d issue the papers. “Probable cause? Not a problem.” he said back, giving Judge Harry more details. “Will do, Harry. I’ll have someone from the office there is 15 minutes”. Small town, word of honor, need to act fast has a way of making “justice” more swift.
Sheriff Walker hated this place. It was enough to have to deal with all these uneducated, ignorant locals. The long hours, the pay and never seeing his wife and kids was taking its toll. Now he was huffing and puffing after climbing one flight of stairs. Too many donuts and fast food on this job had put on thirty pounds in the past five years. “Someday,” he muttered to himself and then knocked on Henderson’s door.
The interview took almost an hour. Henderson was asked the same question ten different ways and the answers all matched. This guy was telling the truth or the sheriff could have tripped him up with his proven method of questioning a witness or a suspect.
The next thing to do was to interview that hag Rasmussen and the doltish Annette. His deputy would have them at the office by the time he got back there. Another night without a decent meal and fried chicken ordered in with all the fixins’. “God, I hate this job”, the sheriff recited his standard mantra.
While he interviewed the two maids, his deputy would be executing the search warrants at their homes for the entire premises and the vehicles of each woman. Dickson had agreed to a search without a warrant earlier that day. Sheriff Walker wouldn’t chance the women being so forth coming.
The first to be questioned was Annette. The sheriff figured her for the weak link if she was involved. He’d get more out of her faster than Rasmussen. Annette was the proverbial shaking leaf. Walker wondered how she had made it on the stand when the other trial took place. In the back of his mind he began to wonder if maybe, just maybe he had moved too fast on that one.
A little slow but a good worker, Annette stared at the wall behind the sheriff and kept wringing her hands. One knee went up and down so fast that it shook the table.
Tina found ‘Lady’ in the cell when she returned from her laundry duty. She swaggered in, plopped herself loudly on the bunk and motioned ‘Lady’ to join her. ‘Lady’ compliantly slid herself next to Tina, placed her head on Tina’s shoulder and closed her eyes. She was determined to keep safe, to get home to her family. Tina was her ticket out. ‘Lady’ had always known that she would be dependent on others. Why should Tina be an exception? This time when Tina pulled ‘Lady’ to her, ‘Lady’ responded the way she thought Tina would want.
Annette caved within the first fifteen minutes of the interrogation. She wasn’t smart enough to even ask for an attorney or a deal. The sheriff asked her four times if she wanted representation.
She signed the waiver after saying, “No,” for the fourth time.
Mrs. Rasmussen had told her there was a way to make more money. It was a little illegal but, “Everybody does it. It’s expected in business.” Annette wanted to keep her job and Mrs. Rasmussen said this would make sure of it.
“I just di'nt want to be without work. I need this job. You understand, Sheriff.”
The entire story spilled from her mouth without Annette taking more than a few breaths.
Mrs. Rasmussen was next. She stood defiant and confident. “I want a lawyer. I ain’t sayin’ a word to you without one, Sheriff.”
“Sure enough, Enid. We’ll call whoever you want. So you have an attorney in mind?” Rasmussen looked blank for a moment and then responded, “I ain’t got no money. You need to get me one of those free ones.”
“Sure, Enid,” Walker responded. “You just sit here while we call someone. Might be awhile though. Courts are closed and everyone is usually gone home by now. We’ll just put you in a cell while you wait.”
“You cain’t do that!” Rasmussen smirked.
“Well, Enid, I can. I can hold you here for up to 48 hours without any charges. Come on with Mary. She’ll get you to your cell.”
“No!” Rasmussen shouted. “ I didn’t do anything. It was Annette!”
“Are you saying you don’t want a lawyer now?” The sheriff sat back down, ready to listen to the criminal “mastermind” in front of him.
“How long afore I can git a lawyer?”
Walker smiled and spoke quietly and calmly. “Oh, probably not later than tomorrow afternoon. Small town. Not many defenders and a coouple of trials scheduled. I’d say by five or six tomorrow.”
“But I need to get home.” Rasmussen was going through her thoughts of how she could get home and burn everything or take stuff to the dump before anyone was the wiser.
“Sorry. Not going to happen, Enid. My deputy is at your place right now, warrant in hand, searching every nook and cranny with a fine tooth comb.”
Mrs. Rasmussen, Enid as the sheriff so familiarly referred to her, drew her head into her shoulders. Her eyes glancing to the left and then the right. She wasn’t going down for this all by herself.
“It was McKie!” She blurted.
“What?” The sheriff was completely thrown by that one. ‘He’s been gone for months. He’s the one who got to the bottom...Oh my God!” Sheriff Walker slapped his balding head. “I am such a fuckin’ idiot. You people bamboozled me but good and a fine lady has been paying the price for my mistake.”
The sheriff left the room, returning within seconds with a legal pad and pencil. “Write it all down. Before you start, I need to find McKie. Number, address and anything else that will help me find the bastard.”
Enid Rasmussen told him where to find the information he demanded. It was at her house in a drawer next to her bed. A journal she was keeping in case McKie ever tried to cross her. All the evidence the sheriff needed to close this case and rectify a gross miscarriage of justice.
McKie had maneuvered his transfer long before ‘Lady’ had been “caught”. It was part of his plan. Leave town, keep Rasmussen in place with her little helper Annette, and stay clear of any suspicion. A phone call to Center City, a quick conversation with the chief of police and McKie would be behind bars. The sheriff made the arrangements to bring McKie back to town. Local law enforcement worked well together most of the time. This was one time it was going to work fast, too.
When ‘Lady’ had come to McKie about the money she had found in Room 215, he saw this as an opportunity to deflect blame. She was already a mess of worry about the money. He could tell she had struggled with her conscience. This would make her seem guilty. Her Christian guilt would come in handy. He could control the operation from Center City. Rasmussen’s greed and Annette’s need for acceptance could be played perfectly. In a year or two, he’d be retired and have some extra cash in the bank. Not a fortune but, enough to be comfortable. After all, he had his Center City team at work, too.
It took almost two weeks to get all the details, uncover McKie’s actions and all those involved. A plea bargain was struck with two women in Center City. Annette, who confessed first, was given the same offer. Enid Rasmussen, on the other hand, because of her involvement in framing ‘Lady’, was sentenced to serve 8-12 years in prison, eligible for parole in five years. McKie got the same. He was transferred back to Center City for his crimes there.
Henderson’s money had been found in the back of Rasmussen's locker at the motel. She had hidden it there thinking she’d have time to retrieve it when everything blew over. Her smug arrogance had been her downfall. Along with the money, there was a letter addressed to McKie, thanking him for the honesty of his staff explanation he was sending a large tip of $100.00 for the maid who made sure he kept his money so long ago. Of course, there was no tip to be found. Rasmussen had taken care of that.
Dickson had completed the case with his thorough audit. It turned up theft that must have gone on for two years. The Center City audit showed McKie had taken great advantage of the larger property and stolen significantly more in his time there. One would not think the goods were worth much but the systematic way in which the thefts were orchestrated, made the total in the tens of thousands of dollars. Thefts of money and other possessions from motel patrons were never reported to corporate. Expensive watches, jewelry, clothing had only increased the tally.
‘Lady’s’ case was reviewed by the District Attorney, Owens and the judge. The state supreme court was petitioned to vacate the sentence. As with all bureaucracy, Rasmussen and McKie were convcited and sentenced before ‘Lady’ would be released. 'Lady's' case had to be reviewed, the recommendations considered and a date to hand down the decision set. Even a request for an expedited decision had to meet scrutiny. Thirty to One Hundred Twenty days was within legal parameters.
Brian continued to visit; his excitement at her being released frustrated by the slow wheels of the court system. ‘Lady’s’ story had spread throughout the prison.
Tina became sullen and more physical. She pinched, leaving bruisers. She bit ‘Lady’s’ lip. She slapped her a few times and punched her when ‘Lady’ didn’t respond amorously enough. ‘Lady’ would have to continue her feigned affection until the last moment or Tina could really hurt her; maybe even kill her. ‘Lady’ was determined again, to hold on. She had to do “what she had to do” so she could be with her husband and kids again. “Not much longer,” she’d think each day. Tina had other plans.
Her release date finally set, ‘Lady’ could feel her happiness bubbling up inside her, ready to spill onto the darkness she had been living and make everything light and airy again. The warden had spent time with ‘Lady’ explaining how the guard would come to fetch her when the District Attorney arrived with her own attorney. They would be bringing the official paperwork for him to sign. Brian would be there waiting for her in the office, too. She would already be changed into her street clothes. She could walk out with Brian, head held high and finally go on with her life. “I am so sorry this happened to you”.
‘Oh, that’s all right,” ‘Lady’ replied. Ever the small town girl; too humble, too polite to be angry at a man she knew had nothing to do with her being there.
“Could I ask you a favor?” ‘Lady’ gathered her courage, pulling it from deep with her gut. “Could I have a cell by myself until I get out?”
The warden’s face didn’t display any surprise. “Let me work on it. I can’t make promises, but I’ll see.”
As ‘Lady’ made her way back to her cell, the lock down alarms screamed like a banshee.
All the air seemed to go out of the long hallway, pulled by a vacuum of violence. ‘Lady’ was quickly taken to an empty room and told to stay there. She heard the door lock as the guards scrambled to respond to the alarm.
Forty-five minutes later, needing to use the facilities and hungry, ‘Lady’ heard the lock turn. “What happened?” She demanded an answer.
“C'mon, you know we can’t tell. You’ll find out soon enough when you get back to your cell.” The guards walked her to the first deck of doors and handed her off to the guards on the other side.
Tina was nowhere to be seen.
“What happened?” ‘Lady’ asked, looking across at the woman who loved to cheer Tina on most nights.
“Tina got after some ugly ole bitch. Killed her good, too, I hear. They took Tina to seclusion. She’ll be back when they find out it was self-defense.”
“How do you know?” ' Lady’ could not believe Tina would ever get caught at anything but, claiming self-defense?
“I know, cuz four of us are gonna say what we saw.” The inmate smirked and then licked her lips. “Who did she kill?" “I tole you. Some ugly bitch just got here. Rubbed Tina the wrong way, I guess.”
Fourteen years passed quickly. ‘Lady’ left the prison eight days after Tina disappeared. She never told Brian about Tina except to say her cell mate kept bad people at bay. The kids had left home, making it in the world on their own. Brian had made a good life for them all. They stayed in Oakville all those years, never having to explain themselves.
Brian had died early in the morning three years earlier. The cancer had wasted his body and, in the end, took his mind. He did not know ‘Lady’ was there with him when his spirit passed. The funeral was simple. They had never returned to their religious lives when ‘Lady’ finally came home those many years ago. She had refused to step inside a church. Brian did not ask why. Both wanted to forget the pain of separation and injustice so they could just live their lives.
‘Lady’ was sitting quietly at the kitchen table having a cup of tea when the doorbell rang. She opened the door to see an old wizened woman, looking chewed up and spit out. “It’s me.” The woman said. She looked small and oh, so used up. ‘Lady’ stared for a few seconds before she realized who this old woman was standing on her stoop.
“Tina. Why are you here? Whatever made you think I’d ever want to see you again?" 'Lady' found her anger dissapate as she studied Tina's face. “I just wanted to say, sorry. I rooned my life. I was hopin' I didn't roon yers too bad. There is nothing out here for me. I have no one and no one wants me anyhow. I just needed to say sorry. Bye.’Lady’. Tina turned to leave, awkwardly lurching down the first two steps of the porch..
“Stop.” ‘Lady’ could not believe what she was about to do. “Come sit and have a cup of tea. I need to tell you thank you.”
“Fer what?” Tina was incredulous.
“For keepin’ me safe. " "You don't hate me?" "After all this time? I had a good life in the end. I don't even think God would care anymore."
They drank their teas in silence until Tina looked up from her cup and said, "What’s yer real name, ‘Lady’?" “It's Madonna, but ‘Lady’ seems about right to me today.”
Tina did not leave ‘Lady’s’ home after the cup of tea.
Too much between them but not enough for either to let go.
Rainee 2010 (c)