By Mavis Applewater
For disclaimers see part one
Part Two 1957
This was the year that the Russians beat us in the space race with Sputnik, Perry Mason was on television, and alas so was Howdy Doody. That freaky little puppet had already been around for awhile; we were still dancing to Elvis along with Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson. The high point for me that year was when Joseph McCarthy’s red scare finally came to an end and I was accepted to Smith. Other than that my life was dismal and had been since the end of the following year. ‘56 had been the turning point in my life.
The first half of 1956 my life experiences were exactly what they had been for seventeen years. I was a good girl whose only bad habit was smoking; again, we all did it. I dated the right guys, never allowing them to get past second base. I swooned over the guys my friends swooned over. I got good grades, respected my parents and tortured my freaky kid brother. All in all I was a normal kid.
The second half of the year my world changed forever. I kissed a girl! Then I not only kissed her sister I went all the way with her. I had fallen in love for the first time in my life. I realized that all the times I acted gaga over some pretty boy in a movie magazine I had only acted that way because my friends had. The pictures that made my heart flutter weren’t those of Rock Hudson or Cary Grant. It was Jayne Mansfield and Elizabeth Taylor that made me tingle.
Before Ginny entered my life I was clueless. I had just discovered that I was different, and I was just beginning to accept that I always had been when the woman I was in love with was stolen from my life. It was a bleak Christmas that year with my sense of survival coming only from the scattered letters Ginny and I shared. The coming of the New Year was a grim event. Standing by Ginny made me an outcast. By the time we had returned to school that winter it was all over town that Ginny was a big homo.
It started on the very first day of classes. I arrived on time wearing the same winter jacket I had worn for years. It was my winter pep squad jacket complete with my letter and shinning pins for every team I cheered for. I had already noticed that no one greeted me in the hallways. Candy and Betsy passed by without so much as a second glance. They were cackling. “I can’t believe she has the nerve to wear her jacket.” Candy loudly announced for my benefit.
The stage had been set. I wandered the halls aimlessly drifting from one class to another. No longer welcome to claim my usual seating with the A list crowd. I was banished to the front of the classroom. Sitting in the front row with the nerds was a new experience for me. During lunch I didn’t bother trying to sit with the gang. I saw them shuffling chairs and books to ensure there wasn’t a space for me.
I stood holding the tray of glop the school system claimed was food. I was mortified knowing that I was unwelcome not only with my set but with everyone else as well. I spent twelve years cocooned in my little click. When you ignore everyone else for all those years and adding nasty rumors to the mix you don’t have a place to sit in the cafeteria. I was going to toss out my lunch and find somewhere to hide. Thankfully Bobby called me over. He may have fallen from the A list, but the guy was still dreamy. Naturally he found a place surrounded by a gaggle of girls who hung on his every word.
His face turned beet red when his new friends suddenly bolted when I went to sit down. “I should sit somewhere else,” I gulped. “Face it I’m bad news.”
“Bad news?” Bobby sneered at me. “Since when? I don’t see it. All I see is a friend who stood by me.”
“Room for two more?” Sandy announced approaching the table with Ron in tow.
“We seem to have some recent vacancies,” Bobby smiled brightly.
“Cool,” Ron tried to sound happy. “Cause the old table is a drag.”
“No way,” I shook my head ready to bolt. “I won’t bring you down with me.”
“Sit Dolly,” Sandy fussed placing her hand on my shoulder preventing me from standing. “So are you going to give us the straight skinny on what happened or should we believe the rumors? So far I’ve heard that Ginny molested a bunch of kids. She was working as a prostitute. She’s a dope fiend who got busted trying to sell reefer. And, my personal favorite, she’s a sick queer who was trolling the streets of Boston looking to rape some poor unsuspecting girl.”
“That’s what people have been saying?” I blanched feeling sick to my stomach.
“Those were the nicer things,” Ron grumbled. “Come on Ellen you and Ginny are tight. Tell us the truth.”
I blew out a terse breath knowing I couldn’t tell them the whole truth. Even if it wasn’t as bad as the rumors it still wouldn’t go over very well. “That weekend,” I choked out. “The cops claim Ginny was in Boston and picked up an under aged girl.”
“Ginny?” Sandy scoffed at the notion. “Yeah right.”
“She couldn’t have,” I quickly asserted. “We took off to go skiing that weekend. She was in Vermont with me the whole weekend.”
“Then why did they arrest her?” Ron shook his head.
“Because whoever was trolling around the city that night looked just like her,” I carefully began terrified that I would say the wrong thing. “And they were driving a brand new Chevy.”
“That evil skank,” Sandy bellowed shocking everyone in the lunchroom. “She framed her own sister?”
“Don’t surprise me,” Bobby rolled his eyes. “Well the girl part does. But knowing Laurie I could see her turning psycho. She clocked me one night when I suggested that maybe she had enough to drink.”
“I still don’t get it,” Ron grunted. “If you vouched for Ginny why is she in jail?”
“The cops didn’t care,” I growled fighting to keep my ire in check. “I told them, my parents told them, and even the Swenson’s maid told them that Ginny was out of town. They had already nailed her to the cross and they weren’t cutting her down.”
“Still doesn’t make any sense,” Sandy grumbled. “Hey wait. You guys planned a trip and didn’t invite me. Well now I’m hurt.”
“Sorry,” I sheepishly shrugged. “I missed the trip the weekend before. We wanted to go skiing not party.”
“Skiing on a ski trip?” Sandy shuddered. “Now that’s a novel concept. All that cold and snow. Yuck.”
“Now you know why we didn’t invite you,” I was trembling as I spilled out my lie.
I had hoped once I explained that Ginny was innocent word would spread and all would be forgiven. Instead the rumors got worse. The final version that floated around school was that Ginny was a pinko, queer, drug addict who pulled a bank heist. Everyday I was forced to defend Ginny’s honor. Very few people listened to me when I defended her. After all, unlike Laurie the social butterfly, Ginny hadn’t dated very much the semester before. Worse still she had broken up with the class hunk Bobbie Walford and, in everyone’s mind, that proved she had to be a sicko. No normal girl would have let him go. Well until he broke his leg.
It didn’t matter that I swore up and down that she was with me that weekend. In fact by saying that and still staying friends with her I pretty much damned myself. It didn’t help my case that everyone in town knew that Ginny had given me her car.
How could I defend myself against the hushed whispers that followed me everywhere? There was, after all, a kernel of truth to the rumors. I was like Ginny and, yes, there was something going on between us. It is amazing just how quickly the people you have known since you were in diapers together will drop out of your life once your reputation has been tainted. I could count on one hand the number of my so called friends who would bother to say hello to me in the school corridors. There was Sandy, Ron, Bobby and Margie. And Margie, my former best friend, would only dare speak to me if there was no one else around.
No one stopped by my house to study or hang out. If I walked into Buddy Burgers suddenly there wasn’t a space for me with the gang. I didn’t bother throwing a party when I turned eighteen. And it was made clear to me even though no one said anything directly to me, that I shouldn’t bother showing up at tryouts for the winter pep squad. I did the only thing I could do. I hung up my pom-poms, kept my head held high ignoring the snide comments that followed me everywhere, and studied my ass off. It is true what they say, living well is the best revenge.
Miss Piper did corner me the day after tryouts. She was furious that I hadn’t shown up. I gaped at her when she suggested that I tryout anyway. “Are you serious?” I practically shouted at her. I was mad as a wet hen my fury stemming from her misplaced anger. There she was mad at me for not joining the pep squad when she should have been angry with the rest of the squad for the way they were treating me.
“Ellen,” she continued to scold me. “I’ve lost four girls on the squad. First the twins because of this incident, then you and Sandy. She stormed out of the tryouts when she realized you weren’t coming. Now I can give you and Sandy a private tryout today.”
“No disrespect Miss Piper,” I was flabbergasted that all this woman seemed to care about was the pep squad. “Look around you.” I motioned to the empty locker room we were standing in. “All the girls bolted the moment I walked in. I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea.”
“The girls will just have to overcome their apprehension,” Miss Piper tried to encourage me.
“Apprehension?” I bitterly repeated. “Do you want to know what everybody was laughing about yesterday? When I got to school, I found a naked Ginny Doll taped to my locker with the word queer written on it in lipstick. I recognized the shade. It belonged to one of my former teammates. The only way I can get back into my so called friends good graces is if I stop defending Ginny which is never going to happen.”
“I understand that kids can be cruel sometimes,” she pathetically tried to comfort me.
“Cruel? They thought it was funny,” I cut her to the quick. “Ginny is my best friend. And she’s innocent. They don’t care. So forgive me for not wanting to spend my afternoons with these girls.”
“I thought Laurie was the one you’re close too? She was your point and the two of you hung out constantly,” she sputtered.
“No,” I huffed. “Ginny was my point. I know you assigned Laurie. They switched places. They did that a lot.”
She took a hard swallow. I could see that her hands were shaking. “Ellen,” she woefully began. “Perhaps you should just stop defending Ginny. You don’t want people to get the wrong idea. It would make things easier on you.”
When she finally met my hostile gaze I saw it in her eyes. For the second time in as many months I knew that she really understood my pain. “That would be the cowards way out,” I stood my ground. “Not my style.” I spat out knowing that I was insulting her. The pieces fell quickly into place. The spinster PE teacher who shared a small house with Miss Laurent. She knew what Ginny and I were doing that afternoon in the locker room. She let it slide because she was one of us.
“Ellen sometimes you have to go along to get along,” she tried to caution me.
“I can’t.” I sternly dismissed her advice. “That may work for some people but it isn’t who I am.”
She shrank back, stung by my words. She didn’t say anything else. She walked away with her shoulders slumped. Miss Piper rarely spoke to me after that day. When she did it was only related to her duties. Miss Laurent oddly enough smiled each time she saw me.
Just as I predicted the taunts and jeers followed me everywhere. I skipped lunch after that not wanting to drag the few friends I had left down with me. All my studying did pay off. My already good grades sky rocketed. I wasn’t the head of the class, but I did make the top ten. I was literally counting down the days until my life at Buchanan High would be nothing more than a dim memory.
I had pretty much written off going to the prom when out of the blue Ron suddenly showed up at my locker asking what color flowers he should buy me?
“For what?” I shook my head confused by the question and his boyish grin.
“The prom.” He flatly explained just as I was closing my locker noticing Sandy for the first time.
“The prom?” I stammered. “Very funny.”
“It could be if we spike the punch,” Sandy snickered. “So we’ll go out this week and pick out your dress?”
“My dress?” I gaped at her.
“For someone on the honor roll you can be a dimwit,” Ron sighed.
“You and Ron are doubling with me and Bobby.” Sandy expanded.
“You guys shouldn’t be seen talking to me,” I muttered wondering if Sandy had become the patron saint of lost causes. “Doubling for the prom would be suicide.”
“You are so dramatic,” Sandy droned. “Hey we could take the Cherry Mobile that ought to get them talking.”
“It is official the both of you have lost your minds,” I groaned. “I’ve been banished to loserville. I can’t go to the prom. Ron you should ask someone else.”
“Ellen did you ditch us that weekend to go skiing in Vermont with Ginny? The same weekend when she was supposedly out cruising for under aged hookers?” Sandy demanded.
“Yes.” I fumed not angry with her I was just tired of having to defend myself and Ginny.
“Then if that is what you said happened that is what happened,” she concluded.
“I buy it.” Ron shrugged in agreement.
“How does Bobby feel about this?”
“He’s cool with it,” Sandy reassured me. “He knows what it is like being dropped from the A list for no good reason. Plus there is no love lost between him and Laurie.”
“Actually what he said was Laurie was a psycho and Ginny got a bum rap,” Ron clarified.
“Pisses me off that Ginny gets sent up the river and Laurie just moves away,” Sandy spat out. “She’s waltzing around Largmount with a new boyfriend without a care in the world.”
“Largmount?” I was surprised. The Swenson’s had literally vanished over night. They cleared out and were long gone before Ginny had agreed to take the fall. Finding out that they had moved to a new swanky address just a few miles away really irked me. Mostly I was angry because I knew for a fact that none of them had bothered to contact Ginny. Not a phone call or letters; not even a card for Christmas or her birthday. Much to my surprise it was my parents who did those things.
“Yeah the folks dragged me to one of those god awful socials at the country club over there,” Sandy prattled. “And there they were the whole family. Laurie was preening about with the most eligible guy in town.”
“Figures.” I growled.
“You should have seen her face when I asked how Ginny was.” Sandy gloated.
“You didn’t?” My eyes widened with glee.
“Sure did right in front of all her new friends,” Sandy boldly smirked. “Funny they didn’t know Laurie had a sister. She, of course, claimed that I was unbalanced and making the whole thing up. She also claimed that she’s never seen me before in her life. Losers bought it. I should have smacked her. Dad dragged me away before I got the chance.”
“It makes me sick,” I confessed. “She’s off playing Belle of the ball and Ginny’s in prison. How can she just pretend that she doesn’t have a sister?”
“Like Bobby said she’s a psycho.” Ron confirmed.
Going to the prom and ruffling the feathers of a bunch of tight asses sounded like fun. There was a slight hitch. How could I go to the prom and enjoy myself while Ginny was in prison? It didn’t seem right. I felt that if I went I would somehow be betraying her. I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t like I could ask my Mom about it. Granted she and Dad were great about Ginny. Only they didn’t know the whole truth. Little things like Ginny’s prior offensives; granted it was Laurie who had been caught making out with a girl, but Ginny had committed the same offense. In fact she had committed the same offense with me more times than I could count.
What to do? The answer was simple. There was only one person I could ask if it would be a problem and that was Ginny. Big problem there, the only way to contact her was by writing to her. It could take over a month before I got a response. We were driving the folks at the prison crazy with the little code we used. They were catching on and now our correspondence was taking longer and longer to reach the other. I wish I could call her but since I was still a minor my calls were rejected even if I placed them at the correct day and time. The only solution I had come up with was burying my face in my pillow and trying to convince myself that it was just a bad dream.
“Ellie,” Mom called out popping her head into my room. “Ellie!” She repeated harshly when I refused to budge. I groaned finally extracting my face from the warm confines of my pillow. “Sandy is here. I understand that the two of you are going shopping. Why didn’t you tell me that you were going to the prom?”
“I don’t know if I’m going,” I whined. “What’s the point?”
“Eleanore Roosevelt Druette,” she scolded me. “You haven’t been out of this house since last winter. I think you should go.”
“Mom!” I wailed like a spoiled infant.
“Don’t Mom me,” she cut me to the quick. “If you don’t go then those knuckle heads win. Go and show them that you are better than them.”
“Work with me here,” Sandy demanded while sorting through the gowns. I just sat there moping. I knew I was going when Mom gave me that look. The one that clearly said that I wasn’t going to win the argument so I should just suck it up and get my butt in gear. “Well your mother was right. You are acting like a little Miss Gloomy Gus. I just love how corny she is.”
“Yeah she’s a cut up.” I snipped.
“We need something to show off your red hair,” Sandy prattled on completely ignoring my dismal state. “Is your Dad going to wax up the Cherry Mobile for us?”
“We’re not taking the car.” I flatly refused.
“Why not?” Sandy shrugged hurling a dress at me. “Try it on.”
“I don’t feel right taking Ginny’s car.” I huffed picking up the dress.
“If she can’t go then her car should,” Sandy reasoned.
“I just don’t feel good about it,” I argued while she pushed me towards the changing room. “We go out in her wheels while she’s probably spending the night hiding her cigarettes from her cellmate.”
“Ever wonder about the cars?” Sandy absently questioned. “Mr. Swenson had Laurie’s car sold and packed off to somewhere out state before Ginny was even fingerprinted. You’d almost think no one wanted anyone to be able to do a side by side comparison.”
“You think,” I snapped drawing the curtain shut. I shed my jeans and tried on the gown. I had to admit I looked good. Which only made me feel even guiltier.
“Why don’t you
ask her?” Sandy shouted from the other side.
“Ask who what?” I asked still looking in the mirror wondering if I went to the prom did it make me a bad person.
“Ginny, ask her if it is okay to take the car?” Sandy chimed in. “Can’t you call her at the big house or send her a letter or something?”
“Her phone calls are restricted and by the time I get a response from my letter I’ll be in Northampton,” I snarled stepping out so Sandy could see the dress.
“Perfect.” She nodded. “We are going to look killer. Don’t worry about a thing I’ll figure out a way to get in touch with Ginny.”
I bought the dress and dismissed Sandy’s ludicrous idea. Granted Sandy could be very resourceful at times though I still doubted she could pull this one off. She proved me wrong. I was sitting in the library when she plopped down beside me and flipped an envelope on top of the book I was reading. “What’s this?” I questioned examining the sealed envelope.
“Don’t ask,” she hushed me. “Let’s just say I have friends in low places. Sadly this epistle is a one shot deal.”
“Very cryptic,” I smiled opening the letter. My jaw dropped when I saw the letter written in Ginny’s hand.
“I didn’t read it.” Sandy vowed moving away so I was afforded some privacy.
‘Dear Eleanore Roosevelt,
Imagine my surprise when the jailhouse pony express stopped by. I had hoped that it was news of you baking me a cake with a file in it. I was a little disappointed that you just needed advice about the prom. Since you’ve gone to so much trouble seeking out my words of wisdom here they are. Go to the prom. Have a good time. You need to go on with your life. It would break my heart if I kept you from living your life. As for the Chevy the car belongs to you to do with as you wish. Although I suspect that your Dad is enjoying it more than you are. Heck I’d love to see the look on everyone’s faces when the four of you pull up in the Cherry Mobile. I just ask one favor remember that I am the one who is locked up not you. If you don’t start enjoying life I’m promise that I am going to bust out of here and kick your butt. Have fun, do things you’ll live to regret and forget about me. I’m fine just another one thousand four hundred twenty eight days and I’ll be out on my own hopefully doing things that I will live to regret. Not that I’m counting or anything.’
“So?” Sandy demanded after watching me reading the short letter over and over again.
“We can take the car.” I dryly explained tucking the note into my purse. I wanted to add that I had also just been dumped. Ginny’s message was clear I had to go on with my life. Now how could I do that when the person I was in love with wasn’t in my life? Imagine that it took her telling me to move on for me to admit that I was in love with her. I was just a little hurt that she would try and be so noble. Although that was who she was. The following day I sent her a letter one which I didn’t bother encrypting. It was short and simple.
‘Dear Virginia Woolf,
My life is fine thank you. I will be waiting for you outside the gates in exactly one thousand four hundred twenty seven days so don’t be late.’
You could have bowled over the entire senior class and our teachers with a feather on prom night. Not only did I have the bad manners to show up, but in the Cherry Mobile; it was just too much. Ron and I barely danced that night. I quickly grew weary of the dance floor clearing each time we went out on the floor. I had never heard so many snotty comments swirling around. People didn’t even bother to keep their voices down. They’d walk right by our table yakking about how they couldn’t believe I would have the nerve to attend my own prom. That and since Sandy had the bad manners to double with me that meant no one could go to her party that night.
“It is hard to believe,” I sighed leaning against Ron’s shoulder. “Last year at this time I was hanging out with these girls making plans for this very night. I guess it is safe to assume I won’t be prom queen or even in the court.”
“Bunch of BS anyways,” Bobby shouted loud enough for everyone to hear. “A few more months you will be leaving this jerkwater town behind. You’re off to Smith, Ron is off to Michigan State and Sandy is going to North Eastern.”
“What about you Bobby?” I stammered. I knew he lost out on LSU still there had to be a school waiting for him.
“Screwed my grades,” he shrugged. “I did get accepted somewhere. The letter said greetings.”
“You got drafted?” I gulped.
“Lucky me my leg didn’t heal in time to get me back on the field but I am a-okay for Uncle Sam,” he said with a half hearted smile. “I passed the physical last week. Ellen it’s okay really. Think about it. I do my time and then I can go to school on a GI bill. It won’t be that bad just under two years and we’re not at war.”
“Thank God for that.” Sandy cheered raising her glass of punch which was spiked with every liquor imaginable.
“I still don’t understand what happened last year,” Ron grimly began. “Bobby got hurt and things change. Then one night we’re hanging out yakking about some flick and the heat shows up. All of a sudden the whole town is divided. Ever since it went down I just can‘t wait to blow this pop stand.”
“Amen to that.” I sighed in agreement.
That night we ended up back at Sandy’s house. Her parents once again nowhere in sight. We drank, danced and for some unknown reason I ended up making out with Ron. I stopped when the guilt of leading him on and betraying Ginny made me feel sick to my stomach. He seemed to understand and once he was capable he drove me home.
I graduated with honors and spent my summer working as many hours as I could at the bookstore building up money for school. Except for the occasional outing with Sandy, Ron and Bobby I never went out. The only real blow out we shared was Bobby’s goodbye party. Sandy didn’t bother inviting anyone beyond our little circle. The rest of the gang still avoided me like I was Typhoid Mary.
There was one afternoon Margie stopped in the bookstore. She wanted to buy a book that would help her plan her wedding. Margie had opted to pass on college to marry Mark. There were a lot of rumors floating around as to why they were in such a hurry.
I didn’t listen to the rumors having experienced first hand how twisted and distorted gossip can be. She was polite to me that day. I congratulated her. Even though we had been close since childhood I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t been invited to be a member of the wedding party. She decided to leave when someone else entered the store. I knew she was afraid that someone would see her talking to me. Before she left she did pose an odd suggestion. Her exact words were, “Do you think that after everything that has happened attending an all girl’s college is a good idea?” I was too stunned to answer her. There was something about the seriousness and hint of disapproval in her voice that threw me off balance.
The summer had been bad enough with every letter Ginny sending me telling me to forget about her. There was also my constant questioning was it just Ginny or I did I really like girls? A difficult question to deal with especially after I had learned that everyone in town was asking the same question. Frankly I couldn’t wait to get out of town. If I was a lesbian you know what who cares? And if it was just Ginny then no matter what she said I was counting down the days until she was free.
When I began my academic career at Smith it was amazing. Finally I was surrounded by other women who wanted to learn, to expand their horizons beyond husband hunting and fitting in. I lucked out on the housing draw. Smith doesn’t have dorms. To promote a sense of community the students must live in houses. My house was Chapin. It was located in the middle of the campus. It over looked the gardens of the Lyman Plant House, the play fields and Paradise Pond. We called it living on the edge of paradise. Oh and how cool is it that the staircase was used by a famed alumnus for her book Gone With The Wind? At any given time Chapin housed between seventy and one hundred students from different classes and social backgrounds. I missed out getting placed in a single. My roommate, Connie, seemed to be pretty nifty though. A bit quirky at times, but I seemed to be drawn to that.
The faculty at Smith tried to eliminate cliques and pecking orders. It still happened only on a much smaller scale. Even though fitting in wasn’t all that important to me. It was great that for the first time in my life I began to form friendships with people I truly got along with instead of clinging to the world of cheerleading. Still it amazed me how many girls would suck up to me because of the car I was driving. I was honest, the car wasn’t mine. I was simply looking after it for a friend. When ever some girl got snotty about my not sharing my wheels, I would take great delight in explaining that the friend who owned the car was in prison. Now that was fun.
“You really have a friend in prison?” My roommate, Connie, questioned one night. She thought it was hysterical when I said it to Helen who was basically full of herself.
“Yes I do.” I blandly responded.
“That is so cool,” Connie gushed. “Wow. Who would have thought a straight arrow like you would know someone in the big house?”
“She’s my best friend and, trust me, it isn’t cool for her,” I curtly responded returning my attention to the lit paper I needed to finish.
“What’s she in for?” Connie pressed on apparently captivated by the subject.
“I’d rather not say.” I gulped knowing that if I explained the situation the next four years of my life would resemble my last semester in high school.
“That’s cool.” She nodded seemingly willing to drop the subject. “So why are you blowing off art class tomorrow?”
“I have to go into to Boston,” I hedged. “There is someone I need to talk to.”
“You’re just a regular Mata Hari aren’t you?” Connie beamed. “Fine, don’t tell me.”
I ignored her misuse of referring to me as a spy and pushed my work aside. The paper was finished I had only been pretending to work for the last few moments in an effort to avoid the conversation with Connie. “If you must know,” I grunted. “My friend was railroaded. She’s innocent. I’ve been collecting information since it happened and tomorrow I’m going to try to talk to one of the cops involved.”
My stomach was tied in knots when I entered the diner. I looked around trying to figure out which one was the one I was looking for. The tiny luncheonette was littered with cops. The desk sergeant was nice enough when I made the inquiry. He told me that Officer Doherty usually ate dinner here before starting his shift. Of course if the desk sergeant had known why I was seeking out this particular officer I doubt he would have given me the time of day.
“Officer Doherty?” I meekly inquired of the policeman who was sitting at the counter.
“Yes,” he responded with a warm smile. “Are you selling raffle tickets?”
“Uhm no Sir,” I stammered extracting my notebook and the file from my bag. “My name is Eleanore Druette.”
“Ah, a law student?” He smiled once again. “Have a seat young lady.”
“Actually I’m pre-law,” I confessed taking the stool beside him. “I was wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions.”
“Good for you getting a jump start,” he complimented me once again flashing a charming smile. There was something about this kindly older gentleman that reminded me of my grandfather. Again if he knew my real reasons for being there I doubt his charm would remain intact. “Now how can a tired old flatfoot such as me help you?”
“I need to ask you about a case you were involved with last December,” I gulped.
“December? Well I don’t know if I’ll remember it, but go ahead,” he encouraged.
“You approached a parked car in Scollay Square late one Saturday night,” I carefully began. “There were two women in the car.”
“Oh yeah, that one, I remember,” he grimaced. “Why do you want to know about this?”
“A friend of mine was involved,” I politely responded not missing the way his smile was vanishing. “I don’t mean to bother you, but could you tell me what happened?”
He thought about it for a moment before answering. “Okay,” he cleared his throat. “It was hard not to notice such a nice car parked on that particular side street. Normally a car parked in that area meant there was something illegal going on. I approached the car knocked on the window, and much to my surprise I discovered two females inside engaging in unnatural acts. I’m sorry,” he apologized.
“It is quite alright sir,” I pushed. “If you could just tell me everything?”
“Fine,” he sighed. “I shined my flashlight into the car took a good look at the driver. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. I asked for her ID while I shined the light on the passenger. That is when I noticed that the lady’s date was bleeding. I made the mistake of moving to the passenger side of the car and requesting that the young lady step out. The driver sped off. Thankfully her companion had the good sense to snatch her purse.”
“That’s how you got her ID?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I also caught the tag number. I’m good with plates. I took the other suspect into custody and brought her to the hospital and that’s when I discovered she was only fifteen.”
“Did she look fifteen?” I questioned scribbling some notes.
“That one?” He almost laughed. “No she’d been trolling the back alleys far too long. I turned the information over to the detectives in vice and that was that. The car was registered to a Warren Swenson and we had his daughter’s ID. It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together. I’m sorry about your friend, but she got what she deserved.”
“If I could trouble you for just one more moment?” I asserted pulling out some pictures. I laid two down on the counter. “Which one of these girls was the one you saw that night?”
“What is this, a trick question?” He gaped at me looking at the snap shots. One was of Ginny the other was Laurie.
“Okay let’s try this,” I proceeded placing two more snap shots down on the counter. This time it was the matching Bel Airs.
“Fine I’ll play,” he nodded. “This one.” He stated selecting Laurie’s car.
“How can you be sure?” I pressed luck once again.
“The dent,” he confirmed. “I remember thinking now if someone could afford a car like that why would they be too cheap to fix the fender?”
He watched as I moved the pictures around matching Ginny’s photo with that of her car and doing the same with Laurie’s photo. “This is Virginia Swenson and that is the car she always drove,” I explained. “This is Laura Swenson and that is the car she always drove.”
“They could have switched cars,” he tried to argue while his eyes darted back and forth between the photos. “Twins? No the ID belonged to Virginia Swenson. The right girl is in jail.”
“The victim you took her to the hospital?” I continued not missing the way he was now glaring at me. “Based on your experience would you say that the person who assaulted her was right handed or left handed?”
“Right handed.” He boasted.
“Are you sure?” I drew him in.
“Positive if the person who smacked that kid around was a southpaw the bruises would have been on the other side of her body,” he proudly explained. “Is that it?”
“Almost,” I sighed putting away my belongings. “Virginia Swenson is left handed her identical twin, who I know for a fact liked to snatch her ID, is right handed. It is not uncommon for twins. Also the night in question Virginia Swenson was with me in Vermont. Are you still positive the right girl is in prison?”
“No,” he choked out. “You need to take this to the detective who handled the case or the DA.”
“I’ve tried. They’re not interested,” I pleaded with him. “Is there anyway you would consider writing down what you just told me?”
“I don’t know.” He hesitated informing me that kids aren’t the only ones afraid to rock the boat. “Miss Druette you are going to make one hell of a lawyer.” He added with a sad smile.
“Thank you for your time,” I conceded defeat scribbling my number on a napkin. “If you change your mind this is my address at Smith.” He wouldn’t touch the napkin when I slid it over to him.
I tucked my tail between my legs and drove back up to Northampton. During the drive I decided that I needed to find out how someone could get their hands on a police report. All the information had to be in there. A month later the answer would be delivered to me. “Hey I got this by mistake,” Helen Darcy barked at me tossing a large package at me. As snotty as the girl was I had to agree how hard it is not to confuse Helen Darcy with Ellen Druette. Yet the mailroom did it all the time.
“She is just so charming,” Connie snickered while I tore open the package thinking it was some more of my Mom’s homemade cookies. “What is it?” Connie asked when I released a gasp.
“A complete copy of the file, all the statements including mine and my parents and the photos of the victims,” I sputtered not bothering to expand on what I was blabbering about. “Eleanore, please do not tell anyone I sent you these copies. I’ve included a notarized statement asserting that I would be unable to testify in a court of law that the suspect I encountered on December 19th, 1956 was in fact Virginia Swenson and not her twin sister. I hope this helps. Sincerely, Sergeant Ryan Doherty thirteenth precinct Boston Police Department.” I read his note aloud.
“This is about your friend?” Connie eagerly clamored.
“Yeah now all I have to do is get someone to do something about this and she just might get out before hell freezes over.” I exclaimed feeling like I could conquer the world. A short time later I discovered something I hadn’t known about our judicial system. When you enter into a plea bargain you forfeit your right to appeal. That wasn’t going to stop me anymore than Ginny’s persistence that I move on with my life. I had come this far I wasn’t giving up.
“Oh for goodness sake can we just decide on a movie?” Blair, one of my housemates, bellowed. “Perry Mason is almost over and we’re still here.”
I threw up my hands in defeat. It was a rare night for some of us. We had caught up on our studies and decided to catch a flick. I even offered to drive. Anything to avoid hanging out in the common room all night. Trying to get five college girls to agree on anything was useless. “I still vote for Desk Set,” I repeated my suggestion for the third time.
“Peyton Place.” Blair whined. “And don’t lie I know you must have read the book. Plus Desk Set is only playing at Coolidge Corner. That’s all the way over in Brookline.”
“Fine, what about Myra’s suggestion?” I conceded. “Twelve Angry Men and, Connie, not a word. Face it you’re the only one who wants to see Jail House Rock.”
“It’s in walking distance,” Connie tried to argue.
“I have a car.” I gloated.
“Fine you spoil sport,” she sighed dramatically. “Then I have to go with Blair.”
“I guess it is up to you Evelyn,” Blair smirked. “We have two votes for Henry Fonda and two for Lana Turner. You’re the tie breaker.”
I blushed slightly when Blair mentioned Lana Turner. Suddenly I was reconsidering my vote. “Peyton Place.” Evelyn cast the deciding vote. We scurried to get ready and make it to the movie on time. It was alright but after reading the novel it left a little to be desired. I announced my disappointment when we returned.
“How did you get your hands on that book?” Evelyn enviously questioned.
“All through high school I worked in a bookstore,” I shrugged. “Mr. Dyer looked the other way anytime I wanted to purchase something risqué. My mom use to give me a list of books she wanted to read. She has a real thing for Henry Miller.”
“You have such a colorful past Ellen,” Helen piped in from her perch in front of the television. “Reading trashy books no small wonder you have a friend who is convict. You never said what she was in for?”
“No, I didn’t,” I cut her down to size. “If you must know her only defect is having a blind devotion for her sister.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Helen sneered.
“She’s innocent.” I fumed clenching my fists.
“Oh just drop it Helen,” Evelyn interjected. “Everyone knows Ellen’s best friend is in prison. Big whoop.”
That was it. No one cared. Not even Helen. She was just basically an unhappy person and wanted the rest of the world to share her misery. When no one did she just retreated into her own little world. I really felt bad for her most of the time. It was sad to watch someone so young wallowing in self pity. I never got the chance to find out just why she was so unhappy. Helen dropped out before the second semester began. Some of us asked what had happened. Mostly the other girls were more interested in who would get her room. Hey it was a single. Blair won the room.
I settled into my new life relishing each moment. Thrilled that I was finally being challenged to think and do for myself. The only dark spot was the one person I wanted to share the experience with wasn’t around. I kept in touch with Ginny despite her more than valiant efforts to curb my devotion. If there hadn’t been all the drama surrounding my last semester of high school and Ginny’s absence 1957 would have been one of the best years of my life.
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