X – Part Two
This is Part Two of the short story “X”. Read Part One here first if you haven’t done so already.
Motherfuckin’ cell phones, Stamper thought. Every prison bans cell phone entry for its guards. Not only do the facilities not want their employees working with their heads cocked permanently to the side, holding the phone against their shoulders as they call their bookies but they do not want any inmates bypassing the monitored collect-call only phones provided in the housing units that garner billions of dollars for one telecommunications company that had dodged anti-trust laws for the last ten years. They never enforce their rules here. Don’t these fucking lieutenants see this? Don’t the rules ever matter in this fucking pig hole? Somebody needs get medieval on these assholes who bring in their cell phones, inflict some enforcement on them, Stamper had lamented to himself as he began dreading his consequences which was a new feeling for him.
“Look man, you know both Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae are fucking me right now…”
“Are their pussies tight?” Caples laughed and put on an air of deep thought, hand on his chin.
“I’m fucking serious. I barely have enough for my son’s soccer team… You know kids have to pay to play now. It’s not like when we were in school.”
“When the fuck did you go to school?” Caples asked.
“Ahh…like you…I graduated in ’90…” Stamper returned.
“Yeah, high school. Sallie Mae is for college. You, my friend, never went to college.”
“Neither did you!”
“Yes, but I am not fucking Sallie Mae, remember?” Caples asked. “What college loans do you have?”
“Amber, Ok?” Stamper told him and sadness fell into his voice. Amber was his gold star, the tip-top branch of the Stamper family tree who had earned several athletic scholarships but chose a small, expensive, liberal arts college and asked her father to cosign her student loan applications. To her once-proud father’s astonishment, Amber Stamper had dropped out on the second day of classes of her freshman year and stuck her father will the bills.
However much Amber embarrassed her father, shame was not on the line in that confrontation with Caples months ago. It was almost as if humiliation never existed for the guards at Hampshire; they would say and do anything without shame. More than unemployment, the ultimate penalty for sexing up a prisoner was time. The long arm of the law pulled out every dick that dipped into inmate flesh and sentenced the staff’s member to nine months of incarceration and a lifetime of modern nomadism as the guard moved from place to place to outrun his registration on the State’s Department of Public Safety’s Sex Offender website.
“Look, what do I have to do… How much do you want for the phone?”
“Not for sale. All of my numbers are in here you know…” Caples explained, still smiling.
“So… what… you’re gonna run to the LT’s office now? Really, Cape, what’s the game here?”
“Noo,” Murray bellowed. “I would never do that to a fellow officer.”
“So then what?”
“We can be mutual maids. I clean yours, you clean mine.”
“What’s that mean?” Stamper sighed.
“You know, if my alleged indiscretions,” Caples scrunched up his fingers in the universal sign for quotation marks, “Get out of hand, you fix ‘em. And I’ll fix yours. A team. You know, a partnership.”
Even though no other option existed, the offer was not that bad, Stamper had conceded to himself, especially since he was only two years away from retirement. Losing his pension after passing the 20-mile marker in the marathon that was a prison guard’s career would be plain stupid and his maid indenturement promised to cost him nothing.
“Deal.” Guards knew better than to shake hands in prisons alongside inmates. The fist bump gained popularity among staffers because it was a public health protection and each man’s knuckles collided that November night to create a pact, a conspiratorial covenant that should, in theory, have helped both of them.
That was last November. In the intervening seven months, the deal detonated. Caples’ caper with his camera phone should have provided some warning to Stamper that things would not go as smoothly as the curves on Deja Dyson’s ass.
On that November night, Stamper could never have fathomed Caples could loosen his discretion as much as he did. Caples never just took risks, he stole them with aplomb; his risks were heists. Caples plumbed the depths of inmate flesh. Taequisha Banks, in for predictably robbing them. Avery Baker, typical DUI WASP. Rocsi Danger unsurprisingly canned for prostitution, claiming her appellation was not a stripper name but a “stage name.” Olga Lugovitch, a shoplifter with Marfan’s Syndrome. For each of these women, Stamper monitored inmate gossip to protect Caples and keep his “family home” – his job – clean. Occasionally, he had to send $50.00 to the inmate’s trust account to fund enough purchases of junk food from the prison commissary to keep their mouths full if they couldn’t keep them shut. None of Caples’ dalliances with Banks, Baker, Danger or Lugovitch were even blips on the brass’ radar, so Stamper’s housework worked.
But then Caples grew sloppy in ways and with speed that left Stamper scrubbing furiously. His tête-à-tête with Janet Lin, a bookish Chinese inmate in for a criminal trespass on a fraternity’s property when the brothers found her naked and totally toasted after her first bender in her last year of college ran the highest risk. In her post-arrest friskiness, Lin had posted – via her mother because the prison lacked internet access – how cute she thought Caples was on her Facebook page. No one but Caples actually saw the post but when another inmate with whom Lin refused to share laundry detergent alerted the warden to discussion of the message, Janet Lin went under, correctional style: under investigation. Stamper squashed that by threatening to write to the admissions committee of every graduate school in the state and blackball any attempts at self-edification after her felony conviction. Then Lin went even farther under: underground with the truth about her inappropriate sexual contact with Murray Caples.
When Lin had been dispatched and then discharged, a Puerto Rican woman placed in custody on a civil mittimus for failing to pay child support had caught Caples’ eye. A civil mittimus for an inmate meant that, although she was detained in custody, the state had not filed criminal charges against her. For Lucasetta Ortiz, her penning in came about when a judge got tired of her civil contempt in her courtroom, namely ignoring seven separate judicial decrees to pay $20.00 every week to her mother, with whom she had abandoned her five children. Four dollars every week per child was all that Judge Judith Tandy – the real “Judge Judy”– had ordered her to pay but Setta Ortiz just never did it. Ortiz faced no criminal charges and appeared lily white next to black women whose offenses were acts like criminal trespass for walking across the lawn of their spouses’ mistresses to ring their doorbells and ask what they wanted with their husbands. In fact, when judicial marshals took Setta into custody at the courthouse per Judge Tandy’s highly miffed order, the rule requiring segregation froze them with Setta in their office; the Department of Correction’s transport officers could not seat her amongst women facing criminal charges.
The Administrative Captain had dispatched Murray Caples to bring Lucasetta Ortiz back to the prison alone in a state-owned, cranberry-colored van. Caples’ effeminate handwriting affirmed the trip at the bottom of Ortiz’s mittimus. What the mitt did not show was that Caples pulled over the cranberry van at a Sbarro rest stop and, leaving the door open, taught her what real contact with a criminal felt like when she spread her legs and tossed aside her Oye Chica! brand thong to receive Murray in the backseat.
Setta Ortiz was enough of a hustler to know to seek a cash payout – money that would never draw near any of her financial obligations – before she could even fasten her belt. Caples installed her at the prison with a promise that the money was forthcoming and found Stamper as he was buying a Coke from one of the vending machines in the officer’s union hall. He explained.
“Dude, I’m short and she needs like $500.00,” Caples said, Stamper’s assignment apparent.
“That’s a fuckin’ lot. I don’t have bills like that on me.”
“Then give her what you have and get the rest to her later.”
“What’s she gonna do with cash in prison?” Stamper asked.
“She’s going home later. Her ex is paying her balance so she can leave.”
“Why doesn’t he just give her the money? Besides, she’ll be gone anyway, so…”
“Because she knows she can get it from me…” Caples, explained, exasperated laughter tracing his words and demonstrating to Stamper that he still did not seem to get the game of sexual misconduct.
“Stamp, bring it to her house. Her address is in the computer,” Caples instructed him in a condescending tone. Stamper lunged at him, picking Caples up by his collar and jacking him up against a wall with a sign reading: “Break the Silence! Report sexual harassment by a co-worker!”
“To her house? You want me to go to that lowlife bitch’s house? What else, huh? Should I buy her a Spic-n-Span dress with rhinestones in the shape of the Puerto Rican flag?” He released Caples who had remained eerily stoic through the attack. Caples then pulled out his iPhone and, with a wry smile, started to fake dial a number.
“I don’t give a fuck. I’m done with this shit. Broadcast the video. What’s the worst? They transfer me?” Stamper backed up and turned out of the union hall’s door to the prison lobby, crashing shoulders with a man in civilian clothes. The inmates were locked in their cells for one of the daily headcounts so he wasn’t a visitor.
“Excuse me, do you know how I find Officer Christopher Arena?
“Ah, I think he works third shift,” Stamper recalled Arena, a tall rookie, Puerto Rican himself, who spent fruitful hours in the guards’ wellness center every week. Even devoting hours to lifting, he still avoided the lunkhead look and actually developed a sinewy, taught, perfectly proportioned body that caused other male guards to puff up and suck in their guts when they walked by him. Arena was quiet, always read a proverb from an open Bible on his weight bench between sets.
“Stamper. “How can I help you?”
“Well, I don’t know. Do you know where this officer works or what his new home address is? I’ve got three separate writs to serve on him – personal service it’s supposed to be…” Mr. Civilian Clothes unfolded a stack of papers and pointed to an area near the top of the first page. “…but I can fudge that if I just know where he lives – I’ll stick it in his doorjamb at eye level where he can’t miss it. I’m State Marshal Gene Abruzzi, by the way.” Fear usually darted up the spines of prison administrators when they heard the phrase “Service of legal papers.”
“Can I see them please?” asked Ralston, pointing to the papers in the marshal’s hand.
“Guess they’ll be public record soon enough, so OK,” the marshal acquiesced and handed them over to Ralston who flipped up the first page on three stapled sets of documents.
“You can find Mr. Arena at 600 Northern Lights Avenue in Rockfield,” Ralston told the marshal.
600 Northern Lights Avenue? That’s Kowalski Correctional Institution’s street address, Stamper mused.
“Thanks much,” said Gene the marshal and pushed out of one of the lobby’s glass doors.
“Arena transferred?” Stamper asked his captain. “I didn’t know why I hadn’t seen him in the gym.”
“No transfer. He lives there.”
“But that’s KCI’s address.”
“I know. He lives there,” Ralston said, self-satisfied at the puzzlement that wouldn’t drain from Stamper’s face. “He was charged with Sex Assault Two for inappropriate contact with one of the ‘mates. He couldn’t post bond because his wife emptied all their accounts so they’re keeping him at KCI because they have the Protective Custody unit for all the CO’s who end up in DOC custody. The marshal can serve him there.”
“W -Wow,” a stunned Stamper stuttered.
“No, the ‘Wow’ is that he’s about to get hit all at once with a divorce complaint, foreclosure papers and a lawsuit from the inmate seeking $10 million in damages,” Ralston posited.
Stamper followed the marshal though the glass doors, lifted himself into his truck and drove to the closest Baxter Bank branch, the one with the drive-thru ATM and rolled down his window to push his debit card into the slot and punch his PIN into the keypad that was protecting his financial security in a way no banker would understand….
Click here for the next installment, published Monday, January 30, 2017
THREE IDEAS IN JUSTICE REFORM FROM JANUARY 16 – 22, 2017
There’s a reason why Prison Diaries started running fiction last week, but I digress…
Trump administration officials are said to be planning to dramatically cut the Justice Department budget as part of an overall push to reduce federal spending. Among the targets are grants that help female victims of domestic violence and those that help hire and equip cops. This as President Trump changed the White House website within hours of being sworn in to say that he supports law enforcement.
Buzzfeed got over its bruising for publishing the Trump “Golden Shower” memo and ran some original reporting on how often cops lie in court. Until recently, “police officers were considered, by most judges and jurors, to be the most reliable narrators in a courtroom.” Body cameras, cell phones, and security cameras have proved that to be false. The story looked at 62 videos revealing police lied — and sometimes perjured themselves on the stand — and found that only 22 led to charges being filed. Nine have resulted in convictions. Less than 15% of cops who provably lie about a criminal investigation or evidence are punished for it. It’s good odds if you want to lie and screw a defendant.
Massachusetts’ highest court Wednesday paved the way for new trials (or the outright dismissal of cases) for tens of thousands of defendants whose convictions were tainted by the false work of a single crime lab technician, Annie Dookhan. The decision means 24,000 second chances.