Written by: SwordnQuill (Susanne Beck)
Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation. Thats right, this is an uber story. Some may bear a resemblance to characters we know and love who are owned by PacRen and Universal Studios.
Violence and Naughty Language Disclaimer: Yup, both. And quite a lot of each, to be truthful. This takes place in a prison, and where there are criminals, theres gonna be violence and naughty words.
Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, theres that too. This piece deals, after a fashion, with the love and physical expression of that love, between two adult females. There are some graphic scenes located within this piece, but I have tried to make them as tasteful as possible so as to not avoid anyones sensibilities. Let me know if Ive succeeded.
Serialization Disclaimer: When I first started writing and posting, I made a promise to myself, and to anyone who read me, that I would never post a work that wasnt finished. I detest serialization, normally. But . . .this novel, which is one week from being finished, is becoming very long and Ive had readers write to me stating that they wont read novels because they just dont have time to sit down and read such gargantuan works. So, I compromised. This piece is finished (very nearly) and will go up at regular intervals so that the folks who like to read in small chunks can do that and the ones who like to read the whole thing can do that too.
Dedication: As always, Id like to thank the man who gives up some of his free time every day to read the stuff I send over to him. The best beta-reader on the planet, Mike. Id also like to thank my other betas: Candace (who read the entire novel in IM and showed her support every night), Rachel, and Alex. A special thank-you goes to Sulli, who made a very bad day a wonderful one with her gift of generosity. I would also like to thank Mary D for reading and housing this at her site. But mostly, Id like to thank the readers for reading my stuff and giving me such great feedback. Its what makes sitting in front of this balky computer and tickling the tans so much fun. Feedback, if anyone is so inclined, is always gratefully received and appreciated. I can be reached atSwordnQuil@aol.com .
Ice escaped today.
No, not from the Bog, though, from what Ive learned in the past eighteen hours, I think that might have been her plan all along. Rather, she escaped from the hospital where shed been taken after the shooting almost a week ago.
I sit here, alone in my cell, writing, as my friends cluster around an illegal black and white portable television down in the library, watching the live local coverage of the manhunt thats gone on since word of the escape became known. The prison is ringed by uniformed police officers, all waiting for Ice to come back and murder the warden.
I know Ill never see her again. I know that as certainly as I know my own name. The police arent looking to recapture her. Theyre looking to kill her. And, wounded and hunted as she is, there isnt much in me that has faith that shell foil them.
I started writing this entire story on the day she was shot as a way, I suppose, of keeping her close to me during the time we were apart. Ive always enjoyed writing, and it seemed a good way to pass the time. I never knew it would be all Id ever have; these words, these memories. They seem so inadequate somehow, given what Ive lost today.
But, if words on a page are all the universe deems me worthy of, then Ill continue through to the end, wherever that may lead me. Im crying as I write this, as Im sure youve already guessed. The words before me are blurred with tears, but if I can somehow write through them, these tears, perhaps Ill be able to forget, just for a little while, that empty place where my heart used to be.
Know this, however, before continuing any further. Morgan Steele was (is, I have to believe shes still alive out there, somewhere) a good person. If you have learned nothing else in the reading of these pages, know that she well earned her redemption.
Around one a.m. this morning, I was awakened from a sound sleep by two guards, males who I hadnt seen before, grabbing me and pulling me from my bed. Cuffing my wrists together, they led me through the mostly silent prison and into the wardens office. Morrison looked worse than I felt. His eyes were puffy and bloodshot, his normally perfect hair was a mass of cowlicks and tangles, and his suit, normally impeccable, was wrinkled and ill-fitting.
"Where is she," he growled as soon as the guards had closed the door behind me.
He might as well have been asking me for the secret of life. "Where is who?"
"You know damn well who. Where is she!?!" Spittle flew in an unattractive spray from his snarling lips to land on the otherwise pristine surface of his mahogany desk.
Groggy and frightened though I was, I struggled to keep what little composure I had. "Sir, respectfully, its one oclock in the morning. Ive been asleep for a few hours. I have no idea who or what youre talking about."
His fist slammed down on the desk, rattling the frame of a portrait showing him shaking hands with a well known Right-Wing religious political figure whos name I wont mention. I stiffened as the guards hands clamped even harder over my aching biceps. "That bitch, Steele! For the last time, where is she?!?"
"In the hospital!" I shouted out when it looked like he was going to come over the desk at me.
"Shes not in the hospital! If she was in the fucking hospital, do you think I would have pulled you into my office in the fucking middle of the night to ask you where the fuck she is?"
As I stared at the man, his eyes fairly bugging out of his head, I was struck with the sudden certainty that he was insane. Totally, completely, and without reservation. As insane as Cassandra, if not moreso.
And then it hit me. Ice was gone. Shed escaped. Part of me screamed out in joy while another sobbed in grief.
One of the guards shook me, and I realized that Morrison was waiting for an answer. "Im . . .sorry. I cant help you. I dont know where she is if shes not in the hospital."
This time, he did come across the desk at me, grabbing the front of my jumpsuit in his fist. "Youre lying, bitch! She fucking planned this escape and I know you helped her!"
Stunned, I shook my head, trying to make sense of my whirling thoughts. "Sir," I said finally, trying hard not to show him how truly frightened I was, "she was shot in the back. I really dont know how that could have been planned. But if it was, Sir, I assure you that I knew nothing about it. I thought she was dead when she hit the ground. If all that was just a setup for an escape, its news to me."
I could tell by the look in his eyes that he suddenly knew I knew more than he thought, at least as far as the shooting went. Suddenly, I was faced with the overwhelming temptation to tell him exactly what I knew, just to see him squirm. And, perhaps, if the men holding me had been police officers instead of jailers who might, or might not, be in his back pocket, I might just have done so. Instead, I contented myself with letting the knowledge shine in my eyes.
After a moment, he backed off, releasing me and sliding back across the desk and into his chair. "Get her the fuck outta here," he said, slumping down in his seat.
And suddenly, I could see it. The man was enraged, yes. But more than that, he was absolutely terrified. I could see it easily, now that I knew what to look for. The area around his bulging eyes was white and a line of sweat beaded at his upper lip and hairline. I smirked slightly as the burly guards pulled me out of the office, watching as Morrison reached into his suit pocket for a handkerchief.
There are no windows in my cell, but when I was finally uncuffed and left alone, I sat on my cot, looking at the blank ceiling and imagining a canopy of stars overhead. "Ice," I whispered, "I know youre out there. I just dont know where. Please, be safe. I love you. And as much as I want to see you, please, please, just . . .stay away. Please."
Tears came, then, and I let them fall, knowing deep in my heart that the last picture Id have of her would be the one of her wounded and unconscious, lying on the cold ground of the yard.
The next several hours were spent in a fruitless search for sleep. Finally giving that particular activity up as a lost cause, I got up and put on a fresh uniform, determined to start the day and face, head-on, whatever news it would bring me.
I waited patiently by my cell door, waiting to be sprung for the day. But when the time for release came and went without a sign of the guards, I began to get worried. Full lock down during daylight hours was a very rare thing in the Bog. So rare, in fact, that the only other time I could remember it happening was for the first few hours after the riot had taken place which had resulted in Derbys death.
Pressing my head against the bars of my cell, I looked down the catwalk, seeing nothing but the arms of my fellow inmates as they awaited release. Muttered conversations, invectives and questions began to fill the prison in sporadic bursts. I was obviously not the only one who wondered what was going on, though I had a feeling that I might just know a bit more than most. I didnt think it mere coincidence that this aberration of normal prison procedure came the morning after Ice had supposedly escaped from the hospital (and, at that point, despite the wardens behavior, I still wasnt sure what happened, if anything).
The sound of a voice whos owner could only be Morrison suddenly echoed through the prison, silencing all other talk. Though individual words couldnt be heard, I could tell the man was in an insane rage. The sounds of a cell being turned out filled the air with destruction. I didnt have to think very hard to know which cell was being examined.
Scant moments later, running feet resolved into the form of Sandra as she hastily shoved her key into the lock in my cell door, opened it, and grabbed my arm. "Come with me," she ordered, pulling me out of my cell and down the catwalk.
"Wait! But . . . ." Hard as I tried, I couldnt break free of her grip. "Where are . . . ?"
"The warden is about to blow his top. Im getting you somewhere safe, for the moment. We need to talk."
Deciding that in this case, discretion was the better part of valor, I kept my mouth shut and allowed her to lead me down the steps and through the hallways to the empty visitors room. She sat me down in one of the chairs, then pulled out another and straddled it, fixing me with a no-nonsense look.
I stared back, determined not to give an inch until I had to.
The silence between us grew oppressive.
"Whats going on here, Angel?" she asked, finally.
"Could you be a little more specific?" I knew very well what she was trying to get at, of course, but I wasnt about to be bullied into anything.
She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "You know Ice escaped last night." It wasnt a question.
"So the warden tells me, yes."
Her eyebrows rose into her hairline. "The warden?"
"Yeah. His goon squad dragged me out of bed at one this morning to give me that little bulletin. He didnt seem very happy about it."
"So . . .you didnt know about this beforehand."
I slammed my hand down on the table, startling her. "Of course I didnt! I havent had any contact with her since she was shot. You know that, Sandra!"
She looked at me for a long moment, and then nodded, apparently convinced of my sincerity. She took in another breath, then let it out slowly. "Angel," she asked softly, "who shot Ice?"
At that moment, I wanted, almost more than anything, to tell her. Wanted to share this terrible burden of knowing with her. But I couldnt. For a thousand different reasons, not the least of which was that if something ever happened to Cavallo, whether Ice was involved or not, she would be the prime suspect if I told Sandra. As far as I knew, only four peoplemyself, Ice, Morrison and Cavallo himselfknew who shot Ice. And it was a sure bet that the latter three wouldnt tell anyone. Sandra, however, would be duty-bound to notify the police. And I couldnt allow that to happen.
I looked her dead in the eye. "I cant tell you that, Sandra."
"Cant? Or wont."
I said nothing.
"I could put you in the hole for not answering me," she warned.
"Yes," I agreed, not breaking eye contact. "You could."
"And youre willing to risk that?"
We stared at one another for a long time in that small, silent room. I could almost see the arguments running behind Sandras dark eyes, each one pondered carefully before being discarded as useless against me. "She would have done it sooner or later, you know." Her voice was very quiet, and somewhat sad.
"Escaped. If it hadnt been from the hospital, it would have been from here. Do you know anything about that?"
"No." And again, I was telling the truth. In all the time Id known Ice, the topic of escape had never come up in conversation. "Why do you think so?"
She smiled a little. "Its what the warden was screaming about. They turned out her cell."
"She was apparently working on a tunnel before she was shot. I can only imagine that was why she was so adamant against going to the hospital that night after the fire."
"A tunnel?" I asked, confused. "From the eighth floor?" The thought was ludicrous.
"Well, I cant get into the details, obviously, but lets just say that there was a rather large hole around the commode in her cell. One that had been carefully carved out."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Sandra, Ive been in Ices cell more times than I can count, and Ive never seen a hole, there or anywhere else. Are you sure it didnt just conveniently . . .appear?"
"Positive. I was there when the warden discovered it."
"But . . .how?"
"That I cant say. Trust me, though, it was quite damning."
I managed a weak smile. "Thats ok. I think Id rather not know." I honestly didnt know what to think. If you had asked me yesterday if I thought Ice would be a person who would try to escape, I would have laughed in your face. Now? I just didnt know what to think anymore.
My reverie was interrupted by a hand on my arm. "This line of questioning isnt over, Angel," Sandra said, her voice and expression set in stone. "Ill give you a little bit of time to think about why you feel the need to protect Ices shooter, but when we talk again, Im gonna want some answers. Do you understand me?"
"Good. Lets go then."
By the time she escorted me from the visitors room, lock-down had been lifted and the inmates were swarming through the prison. I could tell that the grapevine was in good working order by the looks almost all of the inmates gave me as they passed.
Sandra released her hold on my arm. "Remember what I said, Angel," she murmured close to my ear.
With a nod, she was gone; swallowed up by an orange tide.
And so here I sit in my cell, with a caged bulb and a stack of cheap paper for company. Its almost time for lights out, and since no one has come to give me any updates in the past several hours, I can only guess that Ice is still out there, somewhere.
They now know, though; Corinne and the Amazons. I told them some of my secrets. I think Ice would forgive me that, wherever she is. They deserved to know why she was shot and what kind of pressure she was under just trying to exist in this rat warren day after day. But more than that, I told them because I couldnt stand to see the faint sheen of disappointment in their eyes. And a kind of hurt. That Ice had left them without even saying goodbye.
They expect me to lose it, I think. To just fracture into a million pieces. And though there have been times today when I felt about one step away from doing just that, I seem to have developed this inner core of strength that I never knew I had. I think its the only thing thats keeping me going. That and the hope that Ice is still out there, alive if not safe.
I want to hate her, you know. For putting me through this. For putting us all through this. I want to. But I cant. That same strength that wont let me just fall to pieces wont let me hate her either.
I keep waiting for the anger to come, but it seems content to bide its time. Maybe one day, when Im far away from this place and the memories it invokes in me, maybe then Ill be able to just scream at her to a barren wall. Maybe someday.
The lights have just flickered. Its time to put this away in my little safe space and settle down for the night and wait and wonder if sleep will decide to take me with him when he leaves.
And then, maybe, I can see her again in my dreams.
When the cells were opened in the morning, I was greeted by a grim-faced Pony. "You need to come and see this, Angel."
My guts instantly tightened as my heart sped up. "What is it?" God, no. Please dont let it be Ice. Please.
"Its better if you see it. Cmon."
I followed at Ponys heels as she led me down the stairs and through the prison to the library. It was a Saturday, a day where, with the wardens absence, the rules were relaxed, slightly. The television, which had been hidden in the deepest corners of the library yesterday, sat out in plain view in the middle of one of the tables, Corinne and the Amazons gathered around it as if by a campfire.
They all turned grim faces to me as Corinne and Critter parted to admit a chair, which they directed me to.
"Whats going on?"
Corinne gestured to the flickering screen. "Watch."
The picture dissolved from a commercial to a newsroom, where an attractive woman was seated, staring earnestly into the cameras. "Recapping our top story of the morning, Joseph Cavallo, linked to the Briacci Mafioso family, was found gunned down early this morning outside of this restaurant in what the police are calling a gangland style shooting."
The view then switched to the outside of a popular Italian restaurant which was adorned with yellow police tape and literally crawling with officers of the law. The anchor continued in voiceover. "Details of the shooting are sketchy at the moment, but a police spokesman states that two witness inside the restaurant have said that they saw three figures step out from the shadows to the west and advance on Mr. Cavallo as he was exiting his car, which was parked at the curb in front of the restaurant. Mr. Cavallo was observed to be reaching into his pocket for what police are guardedly saying was his gun when he was shot down in front of his car. The three figures then left the scene and were observed driving westbound in a dark-colored sedan. No further information on the shooting is available at this time."
"Jesus," I hissed. "Do you think Ice . . . ."
"Shh," Corinne interrupted me. "Theres more. Listen."
The scene switched back to the anchor desk. "In related news, when Mr. Cavallos car was searched in the aftermath of the shooting, paperwork was discovered that linked him to a stolen-car ring that was headed up by this man," and here, a picture was inset into the upper left hand corner of the screen. I gasped, "Reverend William Morrison, warden of the Rainwater Womens Correctional Facility and a well-known supporter of State Senator Robert Gaelan among other noted political figures. Reverend Morrison was arrested at his home early this morning and taken into police custody for questioning. More information on this developing story as it becomes available. And now, heres our own Ken DJulio with this mornings weather."
As the screen switched over to the weather map, I sunk back into my chair, letting go a long-held breath. "Holy shit."
"You can say that again," Corinne said, her tone a touch smug. "Looks like Ice bagged herself two birds with one stone, so to speak."
I turned to her. "Do you really think she did it?"
Corinne snorted. "Does an ursine mammal defecate in the buckwheat? Of course she did it."
"Im not so sure," I replied, though without much conviction.
"What do you mean, Angel?" Sonny asked from her position across the table. "After everything you told us yesterday, you dont think she did it? After what Cavallo did to her?"
"She did it alright," Critter chimed in, nodding her head sagely.
I could feel my anger rise, and my body rose right along with it, sending my chair clattering against another table as I stood. "You think so, huh? You all think she just went out there with a couple of partners and blew him away, is that right?"
Pony shrugged. "Sure. She owed him."
The rest nodded their agreement.
I barked out a laugh, shaking my head in disgust. "You know, you guys sound just like what I imagine her jurors must have sounded like when they were deliberating. Only I have more respect for them. Because at least they waited until her trial to convict her."
Fixing each and every one of them with a stern glare, I turned and left the library at a quick walk, not needing to look back to see the shocked faces Id left behind.
Its been almost three months since Ive last looked at these words Ive written. So much has changed, yet so much more remains the same.
Ice is still among the missing. The latest jailhouse poll is betting that shes dead. Im betting against those odds, as are most of the women who knew her well, or at least as well as anyone could know her.
But I must confess that there are times, mostly deep in the night, when I wonder. Because if she is, by some small miracle, still out there, somewhere, shes made no attempt to contact me whatsoever. And believe me when I tell you that it is possible to get word like that through to me with none being the wiser. Its been done before.
And so sometimes, when the pain in my heart is flaring up like the supernova of some distant sun, I wonder. Because at those times, its easier to imagine her dead then uncaring. And its at those times when the tears I hold inside come bursting forth, an unstoppable force.
The anger hit, much sooner that I though it would. When I made it back to my cell that long-ago morning, it hit with a vengeance. I tore my cell up in an orgy of anger. I ranted. I raved. I punched. I kicked. I threw. I screamed.
I was angry at the Amazons for believing that Ice, when it came right down to it, was an unchangeable, and therefore unredeemable, person. I was angry at myself for harboring, deep in my heart, those same beliefs. But mostly, I was angry with Ice; for giving up, for giving in, for taking what seemed to me to be the easy road.
I think I might have hated her a little too, in those dark moments of rage. If I only knew why she had chosen the path she did, perhaps it would have been easier for me to deal with her loss. But I didnt. And it was killing me inside.
One of the images that helps me through those times of rage and desolation is of her last day here with us.
She turned away from the fence, you see.
She didnt have to. When she had Cassandra up against the bars, even the threat of a horrid beating from the warden and guards didnt make her back down.
This time, when the circumstances were equally bad, she turned away. Not because the guards had their guns aimed at her. Ice wasnt afraid to die. In fact, I think she craved it, sometimes. No, she turned away for her own reasons. And I pin all of my remaining hope on the thought that she turned away because she finally had a dream of her own to hold onto.
Even her escape and the death of Cavallo cant tear that image from my mind, nor the hope from my heart. Because, you see, I think that that dream had something to do with me.
The prison has changed as well. The warden, and I say this with no small amount of glee, went down in flames. With Cavallos death and Morrisons arrest, there was no longer a reason to keep my secret, and so I told Sandra everything that I knew. And, of course, she did what Id known she would. She went to the police with my information.
The police, in turn, came to me and asked me many pointed questions, all of which I answered truthfully and to the best of my ability. Theyve added the charge of attempted murder to the rest of Morrisons long list of misdeeds. I hope he gets put away for a long, long time.
The riot which seemed so immanent fizzled out with word of Ices escape. I dont know why, really. Maybe she took some of this places spirit, such as it is, with her when she left. Its an uneasy sort of truce, but a truce nonetheless.
Which is good, in a way, because the Amazons are, for all intents and purposes, leaderless. No one wants the job, least of all me, who everyone looked to to pick up the pieces. Though it shames me to admit this, I just cant drag up the strength to do it.
My life has once again been reduced to a simple day-to-day existence. Its all I have the will for anymore.
Yes, I still fight when the cause is right, either by word or deed. But it lacks that sense of . . .I suppose magic is the best word I can use to describe how it felt when Ice was still here. The sense of being part of a team that fought the good fight seems to have vanished with her. Were still the Amazons and were all still friends, but its as if our ship has suddenly become untethered and were drifting at the mercy of the sea.
Thats not a good place to be in, especially given what this gang represents. I can only hope that we can all hang in there until someone steps forward to claim the mantle of leadership once again.
As for me, well, if the gods are kind, it may be the last day I sit in this cell that is no longer a home for me. Donita kept her promise, and tomorrow, Im scheduled to be transferred to the county jail to await the beginning of my trial, which starts the day after.
Shes brought some beautiful clothes for me to wear. She says Im innocent and should look the part, instead of coming to court in the guise of a convicted killer. Its amazing how much the styles have changed in the five years Ive been here. I wonder what else has changed?
I suppose its best to keep that question tucked away for now. Im nervous enough having to go up in front of the public to rehash the events leading to the death of my husband five years ago. I havent been able to eat anything substantial (even if the cafeteria served something that could be called that) in the past couple of days, and sleep seems more like a distant memory than a living reality.
Donita has already informed me that Im going up on the stand. What if they dont believe me? Its been five years. My emotions, when I think about the killing, arent the same as they were then. What if they think Im lying and that I have no remorse for what Ive done?
Donitas coached me well, playing the DAs role and, frankly, scaring the living crap out of me several times with her lines of questioning. But she assures me that Im ready. That I can take on the world.
I just wish I believed her.
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