This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved by the author, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
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20 July 2017 Edition
Published by Ernest Bywater
This story was written by The Scot in 2005 and published on the story website Storiesonline.net. In 2015 he asked me to remove certain scenes and to repost the story for him. I'd forgotten about it until he recently reminded me about revising the story for him. My role in this is that of an editor making a few cuts as directed by the author, and fixing any errors found in the process. As well as reposting the story I'm publishing the story as an e-book for him. No changes to the plot or story development were made during the revision. The original story had been edited by Kanga and TeNderLoin, while the revised version is edited by TeNderLoin, The Rev, Dan, Gordon, Thornfoote, and myself.
John Grayson had no way of knowing it at the time, but September 18, 2004 was the beginning of the end of the worst time in his life. He was in the Arizona State Prison Complex - Lewis in Buckeye, about fifty miles southwest of Phoenix. Almost halfway through the fifth year of a life sentence for murder and possession of child pornography. However, it was totally irrelevant he was innocent.
It was the late afternoon exercise break in the yard, and though the sun was low in the western sky it was still able to make the temperature very unpleasant. Despite the dry humidity there was no air stirring within the courtyard formed by the walls and guard towers. John and his cellmate, Lester 'Jumbo' Washington, were standing against one of the guard towers trying to have a smoke and find a shady shelter from the unrelenting fireball in the sky.
While they talked John thought about the situation with his cellmate. Lester, or 'Jumbo' as most of the prison population called him, was six foot five, two hundred and eighty-five pounds of raw power. Some people might have called him a pimp, but according to him he'd been hired to protect a group of independent hookers who worked the convention trade in the Phoenix area. The fact he was paid a percentage of their take did probably blur the line. He was serving life for killing someone who was beating on one of the girls. At the worst, he should have been serving five to eight for manslaughter, but the fact the person he threw through a fifth story window was the white son of a prominent politician supposedly had nothing to do with his sentence.
When John had arrived at Lewis five years earlier he was only five-ten and weighed less than one forty. Someone in the system must have thought John deserved some extra punishment, so they placed the computer genius geek with a PhD in the same cell with this mountain of a black who'd only gotten through the fifth grade. It was an interesting social adjustment for both men.
John had heard all sorts of tales of homosexual rape and dominance, and was scared for his body, if not for his very life. Jumbo, on the other hand, had only had negative experiences from the rich, spoiled, young assholes who'd utilized the services of his girls, but who exhibited utter disdain for both him and the girls. To say Lester hated them was like calling Las Vegas a sleepy village, and when the guard told him about John he was ready for some payback.
What he wasn't prepared for was this young, unassuming man to walk up to him and hold out his hand to shake in greeting. Instead of shaking hands Lester grabbed a handful of John's uniform below his throat, and lifted John until they were looking at each other eye to eye. Looking deeply into the window of John's soul Lester saw the fear he expected, but none of the arrogance, bigotry, and contempt he'd grown used to seeing in the young white men he'd known. At that moment the two of them quickly came to an understanding.
As Lester had told others, "I got 'Sweetie's' asshole and shared his smokes; John got my promise to be gentle with that ten-inch monster of mine, and he got my protection from the rest of the prison population."
John wasn't overjoyed at the arrangement, but it could've been a whole lot worse. The funny thing was in a short time they'd actually become friends. John even helped Lester get his GED. As a lifer it wouldn't really do him any good, but it helped his self-image a lot. At the same time, Lester taught John how to survive, how to read people, and even some self-defense. They both worked out with weights everyday, and John was now up to one sixty-five pounds and considerably more muscular than ever before in his life.
As for the sexual side, as Lester came to know the heart of this young man it all became a show to keep the other prisoners from bothering John. Many a night Lester had held his 'Sweetie' close and cried over the humiliation and pain he'd put John through in the first few weeks. John had tried many times to ease Lester's conscience, but Lester's heart was filled with such regret he couldn't seem to be comforted, especially when he was fighting current sexual desires and needs.
One night John had offered to let Lester use him to gain relief, but he wasn't prepared for the violent reaction he received. Lester had picked him up and thrown him across the room to his own bed, which was seldom used. While Lester screamed, "Don't ever talk like that again! Do you hear me?"
The reaction had carried on for more than two weeks, with Lester refusing to say a word to John. Finally, waking up in the middle of the night to take a leak John heard Lester moaning and softly crying in his sleep. When he finished peeing John crawled in bed with Lester and cuddled up next to this giant black bear. At that point he realized there was a love between them that was deeper than most siblings. Not a love of passion and flesh, but a love of heart and mind. A deep caring about each other that would cast the destiny that was to come to pass that very day. The two men had been inseparable ever since.
John's reflection of their relationship was suddenly shattered when he heard a girl's scream through the window behind them. It was part of the entrance to one of the guard towers. It was off limits to inmates, but he didn't think about that at the time. Instead, he just reacted. He burst through the door and rushed in to help. He'd later think, considering what he'd been through, it was amazing he would've even cared.
When John entered the room he saw a male guard unconscious on the floor. A female guard was being held down on the top of a desk. Her clothes were being ripped off by an inmate named Larry, but before John could react he was hit on the back of his head by something hard.
Sometime later John began to regain consciousness. He found his hands were cuffed behind his back, and his feet were bound in some manner, but not closely together. He heard voices, and instinctively knew to 'play possum' until he understood more of what was happening.
Carefully, opening his eyes until he could see thorough a narrow slit John realized he was crumpled in a corner far from the door. He could see Larry and another inmate, John thought his name was Jerome, arguing across a table. There seemed to be others in the room, but he couldn't tell for sure, as there was a big black mass in front of him.
Opening his eyes further John realized the mass was Lester. John's chest contracted like he'd been placed in a vice; the anguish made it difficult for his heart and lungs to function when he saw his friend, his 'brother' lying in a pool of blood. A 'prison shiv' (homemade knife) was sticking out of the side of his neck. At this point John's sense of loss made nothing else seem to matter. He wanted to just curl up and join Lester, but memories of his friend refused to let him do that. John was no longer a victim, he was a survivor.
Through the anguish and pain, John heard a female voice whimpering from another area of the room. After some effort he was able to tune it out, and listen to Larry and Jerome. Piecing fragments of their conversation together he decided they had some crazy escape idea that had blown up in their faces. As a result, they were now sealed up in this single tower, and only them holding the female guard as a hostage was keeping the other guards from attacking. Larry was losing his patience and wanted to just kill everyone, but Jerome convinced him that would just buy them the death penalty. Before John could understand more he slipped back into unconsciousness.
Over the next few days, John drifted in and out of consciousness. He decided he must have been beaten pretty badly after he'd been knocked unconscious, because the pain throughout his body was excruciating. His primary memory of that time was that of a nude young woman bathing his face with water and trying to get him to suck water from the rag. He never saw Lester's or the other guard's body again.
As the time passed John began to have longer and longer spells of consciousness. He realized this nude woman was one of the guards, and she'd been trying to help him stay alive. She kept encouraging John to drink water, and she'd feed him small amounts of food from her plate. John wondered where the food came from, and later learned there had been a cache of food and water stored in one of the rooms in case the guards got caught in a prison siege.
One of those times John's head began to clear significantly more than the previous days. He'd no idea how long he'd been like this, but he was certain it was more than just a couple of days. When his mind began to interpret what his senses were sending he realized the woman was gently wiping his face with a wet rag. She seemed to be softly singing to him some song his memory vaguely recognized.
When he heard the other two convicts yelling to someone outside he whispered, "Are you all right?"
She reached up and brushed her shoulder-length hair to the side. John had seen her around the prison before, but she'd always worn her hair in a bun. There were bruises on both sides of her face; most were the size of a man's hand. There were also dark bruises on her pert breasts, and a couple of places that looked like burns. One of her nipples looked like it had been damaged, and there were other bruises on her ribs and thighs. She couldn't look him in the eye when she said, "No. I feel so unclean. They haven't raped me again, but they've done everything they could to get me to ask for it. I'm thankful you tried to save me, and I'm sorry your friend got killed in doing so. I'm afraid I'm really not worth it though."
Jerome turned from the door, and said, "No talking, you two."
She replied, "I'm trying to find out if he can hold some food down."
"It don't matter no how. There's not 'nough food to give him some anyway. We's trying to bargain fo' mo' food and water, but since we let that other guard go, we ain't got nuttin' to trade with."
Larry yelled out the door, "You're just jiv'n with us. You got one hour, or we'll start taking it out on pretty little 'miss guard,' here."
After he slammed the door shut and propped the back of a chair beneath the doorknob as an extra deterrent Larry turned toward the others. His face was red with anger when he exclaimed in frustration, "I think they're just stringing us along."
Perplexed, Jerome loudly responded, "But why did yu's give 'em a threat like dat, man? Now, they's gonna call our bluff, or else they's gonna bust in dat door, shootin' at everythin' in sight."
"That lying bitch of a warden just makes me so mad; I just lost my head. I'll think of something."
"Wells yu's just do dat li'l thin,' then, 'cause I's not ready to give up. I's don't wanna be shot, neither."
While they were talking the guard helped John get into a more comfortable position. His hands were still cuffed behind his back, and the binding he'd felt at his ankles was his coveralls. They'd pulled them down and twisted them several times to make them like the hobbles used on horses. This had left him completely bare over the rest of his body, and he was surprised he hadn't earlier realized he was nude. As John's eyes took in the rest of his surroundings he realized he was sitting in some kind of low tub he suspected was used to catch his body wastes. In addition to the pain, John realized how weak he felt, so he softly asked her, "How long has it been?
This revelation almost overloaded John's fragile emotional system, taking almost all his remaining reserves to keep from screaming as he responded, "Twelve days?"
She nodded, her eyes cast downward like she was too ashamed to look John in the eye. He couldn't understand why she should feel that way, but instinctively, he knew that was her problem. He wanted to encourage her, to tell her it was OK, to put his arms around her to comfort and protect her during this time.
When he thought about his arm pulling this attractive nude woman close to his own nude body his body did what was quite natural for the circumstances; blood started to engorge John's penis. Because the nude guard wouldn't look up she was staring straight at it while it became harder and harder.
John understood this had to be adding to her embarrassment, so, trying to down play the sexual side he said, "I'm sorry about that. That often happens when I first wake up."
Feeling his compassion she looked up, smiled, and said, "It's OK, I understand. In fact, it's nice someone still thinks I'm pretty, rather than just an object to be used for sexual gratification. By the way, my name is Brenda."
"Brenda, I'm John."
"I know, I read your file. You're a puzzle to many of us in here. You just don't fit the profile."
"What profile? Anyone can kill someone under the right circumstances."
"We know that. No, what I'm talking about, is being a pedophile."
"I'm not." Before the conversation could continue, Larry started yelling at her again.
She replied, "He hasn't really eaten anything in twelve days. We need to get something into his system, or you may have another dead inmate to account for; not only to the authorities, but to your fellow inmates. Lester and John had a lot of respect out there in the yard."
She'd hit on something they hadn't thought about: anger and retaliation from the other prisoners. They were already in here for life, and thought they'd nothing to lose, but now they weren't so sure. Finally, Larry said, "OK, give him a little something. He shouldn't eat much though, 'cause I don't want him 'tossing his cookies' in here. Hell, the smell is bad enough as it is."
She slowly got up and went to the refrigerator. Finding nothing she wanted she looked in the small pantry beside the microwave. After plundering for a few moments, she came out with something in her hand. "I think this should help get you some nourishment," she said.
Larry responded, "What did you find to give him, bitch?"
She held up one of those dried ramen noodle soups in a Styrofoam cup when she replied, "This soup."
Larry grumbled something to the effect dried up noodle soup was rather appropriate for John. She heated some water in the microwave, and poured it into the cup. She covered the cup to let the dehydrated noodles, vegetables, bouillon, and spices soak up the water, and she returned to where John was leaning against the wall. "Since I'm going to have to feed you by hand, I need to get you up higher."
She pulled a chair closer and carefully pulled on John's arm while he tried to get his feet beneath his body. Together they were able to get him standing, but he was very weak, and his head was spinning. It took her several minutes, but she was finally able to get John out of the shallow pan and carefully sat him down in the chair she'd positioned next to it. When she felt he was stable enough she went to the sink to wash a spoon. She was carefully stirring the soup that had formed in the cup while she returned to where John was sitting, and saying, "I wish there was something better, and I hope it doesn't make you sick; I don't know how long it's been in there."
John tried to give her a reassuring smile when he responded, "I don't think those soups go bad. It'll be fine for my first meal."
She sat down in another chair next to him and carefully began to put small spoonfuls of broth in his mouth. At first it was almost too hot, but gradually it seemed less likely to scald his tongue. She fed him very slowly, allowing him to set his own pace. John wasn't sure if it was because she realized how slowly his system would absorb the nourishment, or if she was just trying to mentally push aside the time remaining on Larry's ultimatum.
While this had been going on John had been watching their two captors who'd alternately argue with each other or just complain in general. Occasionally Larry would go to the door, open it just a crack, and yell out the time remaining. The only response was silence. At least, for the moment, they were leaving Brenda and him alone.
About half way through the cup of soup John started having trouble swallowing. His system hadn't had much in it but small amounts of water for a while, and the spices in the hot soup caused his throat to swell. Brenda tried to give him some water to wash them away, but for some reason it didn't help. Finally, she went to the refrigerator and after scrounging around for a moment she brought him a Dr Pepper.
Larry asked, "What'cha giving him that for?"
"His throat is swelling and the water didn't help. I was going to try this. I didn't think it mattered. Neither of you will drink it, anyway."
"OK, give it to him, but don't take too long."
"I'm sorry, I can't go faster, his system won't take it."
Jerome butted in, and said, "Then maybe yu's should stop and come over here." He grabbed his crotch and added, "Maybe your body needs some nourishment too; like a big protein shake."
Larry gave him a deadly look, and said, "Just let her alone."
Jerome stood up and walked around. "OK, OK. I's just funnin' her a bit."
When he came to the side of Larry he suddenly turned and stabbed him in the neck with a shiv. It was probably the same one that killed Lester. Larry fell to the floor, gasping for air and trying to remove the shiv. Jerome kicked at him and said, "I's tired of yu's white bossin' shit. Liken yu's the only one with any brains. Well, yu's brains are on the flo' now. Does yu's still feel better'en me?"
Brenda and John were stunned, and before either could act Jerome came across the room, and knocked the soda and soup from her hand. He then pushed her out of the way and gave John a solid blow to the side of the face. Jerome was obviously surprised when John was able to stay in the chair, but when he started to hit John a second time Brenda launched herself at him.
He must have sensed her coming, because before she got there he swung around and backhanded her hard. The strength of his blow knocked her across the room and against the table. He turned back to John and grabbed him by the hair. Pulling backwards he forced John to look up at him.
"Listen," he said, "yu's nothin' but J'bo's white 'pussy boy.' When we's get back inside, yu's gonna be my 'ho.' But 'fo da man comes and gets us, I's gonna have me a piece of some fine white ass. So yu's just sits there and see how I's gonna dick you."
Still holding John by the hair Jerome jerked John's head forward hard enough to leave him slightly stunned. Jerome mocked John while he turned and walked over to Brenda. He stuck his finger in his mouth to wet it and then shoved it hard, pushing it as far up inside her as it'd go. Both men knew she had to be dry; the harsh action causing her intense pain, in addition to the anguish associated with the upcoming rape. Though they both knew the physical result the emotional aspect was quite different within each man. To Jerome it was just another act of power and humiliation to tear at those whom he saw as keeping him from assuming his rightful place in the world, but within John came the initial stirrings of blind rage. John watched, seemingly helpless while Jerome had Brenda stretched backwards over the table he and Larry had been sitting at just a short time earlier. He held his hand over her mouth while he moved his big finger around inside her for maybe forty-five seconds. Pulling out his finger and licking it, he said, "I's guess yu's wet 'nough."
He unzipped his pants and pulled out this huge black dick. It looked bigger than one of those over-sized cans of malt liquor. He grabbed hold of her throat and spread her back across the table. Her legs were hanging down toward the floor. While he positioned that black monster at the opening of her vagina he keep talking trash to her about how he was going to ruin her for white men, and how she'd never be satisfied with a white boy again.
While Jerome was doing these things all John could think about was the pain and humiliation she'd experience by taking that massive prick, even if Jerome had succeeded in moving her beyond the dry stage, which he seriously doubted. Finally the rage within John grew into a consuming fire. Maybe it was the way she'd treated him, or the softness of her voice or just a reaction to the brutal act on a woman, but John just snapped.
Between the soup, the sugar in the Dr Pepper, and a massive shot of adrenalin caused by his anger, John found the strength to suddenly launch himself across the room as hard as his hobbled legs could carry him. The Banshees should have given him a medal for the screams he uttered that day.
Jerome was astonished by the sight of the screaming smaller white boy who was moving across the room so quickly. Like so many bullies the very concept this 'pussy boy' would attack him caused him to momentarily freeze. While he was still too mentally stunned to move John hit him in the lower chest / stomach area with all the force he could put into his shoulder under the circumstances. The force of John's blow knocked the breath out of Jerome and shoved him toward the door to the outside. His momentum caused him to fall over the chair that was reinforcing the door, and when he hit the floor his head hit the concrete block wall, knocking him unconscious.
On the other hand, John's momentum caused his body to push Brenda off the table, and onto an old sofa that was to the side. Being the one pushed caused Brenda to land first, followed by John, whose body ended up between her legs. Realizing what had happened she smiled up at John while she reached down and grabbed his penis. "Thanks! You deserve this," she said while she shoved her hips upward, driving John's erection deep in to her.
The problem was those outside heard the noises, and had chosen that moment to attack. The door was thrown open, and a flash-bang grenade was thrown in, along with a tear-gas canister. As soon as they went off gas-masked guards in SWAT clothes carrying shotguns and MP5's burst into the room. One of them found Jerome, unconscious on the floor.
Another SWAT team member found John naked on the couch superimposed on top of a naked Brenda. Thinking he was in the middle of raping her the guard started beating on John, starting with the butt of a shotgun, and then continuing with a baton. He and others must've beat on John for ten minutes or more, ignoring Brenda's screams for them to stop. John was unconscious, and almost dead, long before they stopped.
The stern matronly woman sat behind her desk studying the young woman who sat in front of her. The file on John Grayson lay open on her desk. Also in the room were several friends from her past. Deke Templeton, the right hand man of the Arizona Attorney General; Elizabeth Johnson, a noted psychologist and a Professor at the University of Arizona; and Zed Andrews, retired investigator for the CID (Criminal Investigations Division) and now a Captain with the Volunteer Arizona Rangers. Finally, she said, "Brenda, are you certain this man wasn't with the others?"
"Yes, Ma'am. He ran into the room when the first prisoner, Larry, was trying to rape me. He was like a white knight charging into unknown danger to save the helpless damsel in distress."
The lady smiled, and said, "Brenda, you've been reading too many of those romance novels."
"Ma'am, I may have, but that's the best way to describe it. Unfortunately, the other one, Jerome, was standing to the side of the door. He hit Grayson in the back of the head with the butt of the shotgun he'd taken from my asshole partner."
"Brenda, we'll get into that situation at another time. Where does Lester Washington come into play?"
"He followed John Grayson into the room. He saw Grayson get hit, and he hit Jerome with his fist. He then pulled Larry off me and threw him across the room. He then went to Grayson, and bent over him like he was going to gently pick Grayson up in his arms and carry him out of there. Jerome was getting himself up from the floor. He removed something from his shoe, I think it was a shiv, and stabbed the bent over Lester in the neck with it."
Looking intently at the young woman she said, "So you think both these two men were heroes?
"What kind of answer is that?"
"Well, there's no doubt in my mind Grayson twice tried to save my virtue, as well as my life. I think Washington cared more about Grayson than he did about me. Jerome called Grayson, Lester's 'pussy boy,' and said he was going to make Grayson his whore. So there must have been something sexual between them."
"Then Grayson is gay?"
"No more than Bill Clinton. I think he was forced into 'an accommodation,' in order to live. We all know those things go on here. Especially when you put someone Grayson's size in with someone Washington's size. Was that by accident, or someone's idea of a cruel joke?"
"Well, it's not official, but it wouldn't surprise me the 'powers that be' among the guards would do something like that with a known pedophile."
"Well, I don't think he's a pedophile. In fact, after reading his file and watching him, I'm not sure he was guilty at all."
Deke Templeton cleared his throat and said, "Why is that?"
"Mister Templeton, there are just several things that don't add up. One thing was no paraffin test was ever performed to prove he actually pulled the trigger."
"But he confessed."
"He confessed to trying to take the man's gun away from him. It's days later when there would've been no traces of nitrate before his wife's story started falling apart."
"But what does that matter?"
"It could matter a lot. I think this man deserves a review of the situation, and for someone to listen to what he says."
The woman behind the desk looked at the others. After a few moments, they all nodded.
She leaned back in her chair and said, "I just have one more question. If this man wasn't raping you when the other guards broke in, why were his coveralls down around his ankles, and his penis in your vagina?"
"He also had his hands cuffed behind his back," Brenda said. "Larry and Jerome had pulled his coveralls down to his ankles while he was unconscious. They twisted them to make it like a hobble you'd use with a horse. They did that to him to reduce his mobility, as they saw him as a potential threat. As for his penis being in my vagina, or his cock in my pussy, I put it there and lunged up to force it deep. It's the only way I could think of to reward him."
"Are you in love with this man?"
"No. In the right place and time I might be attracted to him. But the way he acted and spoke said he cared about me as a person, not as a woman to screw, or a conquest, or even a friend. He seems to have a natural desire to help those in trouble."
"OK then, it's agreed we'll talk to John Grayson."
"Yes, Elizabeth, or should I call you Doctor Johnson?"
"Mary Beth, we've known each other too long for that."
"Good, then call me Mary Beth, not 'Warden.' What are you thinking?"
"Mister Grayson is still in the hospital, and is highly sedated. I know what I learn can't be used as evidence, but I'd like to run some tests, and ask him some questions while he's in this condition."
"You have my permission. Anybody else?"
"Mary Beth, I vaguely remember this case, and it seemed like there were some unusual transfers of lab and investigative personnel at about that time. I'd like to investigate that side of it."
"Thanks, Zed, I'd appreciate it. Deke, anything on your end?"
"Well, I guess I could look at the lawyers for both sides, as well as the judge. I'd look to see if anything strange has developed since this case was first tried."
"Like strong ties that didn't exist before the trial?"
"Or something like that."
"That would be an excellent approach. Gentlemen and Doctor, we all know justice is blind, but sometimes we also know hindsight is twenty-twenty. I'd love nothing better than to find something crooked in this case. I never trusted the previous administration, anymore than I trust all those maps to the 'Lost Dutchman Mine' that you can buy on the street corners in Apache Junction."
When they all started to file out the Warden said, "Brenda, could you please stay for a moment?"
When everyone had left and the door closed Mary Beth came around her desk to stand beside Brenda.
She put her hand on Brenda's shoulder, and said, "Brenda, this must have been an awful experience for you. I'm very sorry it happened. I hope you also understand why I didn't want any of those here today, to know of our relationship. I wanted them to keep an open mind, and not let friendship cloud their judgment."
"Aunt Beth, I understand, and it really was traumatic. They tortured me and did everything they could to get me to beg them to have sex with me. Then, technically, it wouldn't have been rape. But I didn't break. Instead, I became stronger and surer of myself. A turning point for me happened when I was tending John's wounds, and trying to get him some food. He got an erection, and apologized for it. It suddenly told me I was still a desirable woman. I knew my life wasn't over. When he risked his life a second time to save me I just knew, no matter what, I was strong enough to face it. That was why I shoved his penis in my vagina and forced him inside me." Chuckling, she added, "I guess, technically, I raped him. But, for some reason, I suspect he'll not be pressing charges."
Her Aunt replied, "No, I suspect he won't. At the same time, Darling Niece, you've broken a serious rule here about sex with the inmates. I suppose we could say his momentum carried you both onto the sofa and the penetration that occurred was by accident. I think that's the way it should read, officially."
"Thanks, Aunt Beth."
"Now, when are you going to stop bringing home strays? Dogs and cats were bad enough. But now a man convicted of murder and possession of child pornography? Isn't that going too far?
"I guess it depends if he was riding to rescue me on a 'white charger.'"
Returning to her chair Mary Beth smiled when she replied, "Yes, I suppose it does." Then leaning back she asked, "Honestly, how are you doing?"
"OK, other than an occasional odd look from one of the guards. I've noticed quite a few of them with erections."
Mary Beth's eyes flew open while she exclaimed, "Erection, erection, erection!"
Quickly flipping through the folder on her desk she queried, "Where is that comment about erections? Brenda dear, would you please get me some fresh tea? Get yourself something, too. I need to find something in here about erections."
"Would you like something with it?"
Looking up she replied, "Yes, but my waist and hips say I can do without. Get something for yourself, if you want. I think there may still be some carrot cake in the refrigerator in the kitchen of the administrative dining room. Tell Nancy, the cook, to fix me some tea and to get you whatever you want."
"That sounds yummy. I'll be back in just a few minutes."
Mary Beth sat up close to the desk. With her head bent over and resting against the inside of her left hand she scanned quickly through the file on her desk. She was concentrating so hard she never heard her Niece return, nor did she realize that she'd started sipping on the tea that had been placed under her right hand while she read.
Finally a large grin spanned her face, and she shouted, "Eureka!"
"Did you find something, Aunt Beth?
"I most certainly did, my child. Call the others on their cell phones, and see if they can meet us at 'Mi Casa,' near the Desert Sky Mall, in a little over an hour. Tell them I've discovered something very important."
Brenda made the calls, and everyone agreed to the meeting. Within a few minutes Brenda and her Aunt left the prison facility at Buckeye, headed for the City of Phoenix. Brenda was even more surprised at how fast her Aunt was driving. Due to the concentration needed to drive like that nothing was said until after they arrived.
The restaurant had valet parking, and when they both exited the car Mary Beth was carrying a thick folder in her arms, pulled up close to her breasts. They entered and found Elizabeth was there, but the others had yet to arrive. Elizabeth had selected a round table for six in a remote corner, and was already nursing a margarita.
Looking at the condensation forming on the sides of the salt-encrusted glass Mary Beth turned to the waiter and pointed to the glass. "Please bring me one of those." When Brenda tugged on her arm, she added, "Better make that two."
Mary Beth sat to the left of Elizabeth while Brenda slipped in on Mary Beth's left. Before they could get settled the drinks and their other two friends arrived at the same time. Deke and Zed gave the waiter their orders.
As the waiter left Deke said, "Mary Beth, we have got to get together more often. I see you so seldom I almost forget how pretty you are."
Laughing at his remark she said, "Deke, you're so full of it you could fill a stable, a large stable. How does your sweet wife put up with you?
Zed added to the teasing by saying, "What makes you think she does? I keep hearing rumors she's trying to hire a hit man, but we can't get any evidence. They say she's offering a hundred grand."
Deke laughed and said, "For a hundred grand, I'll do the job myself!"
This sent everyone into hysterics. Finally, Deke turned serious. "My dear lady, something very important must have come up to call a second meeting like this."
Brenda had been taking a sip of her margarita when Deke made the statement containing the obviously unrealized pun: 'come up.' She spewed her drink over the entire table. While Brenda was trying to clean up everyone, as well as the table, Mary Beth was trying to stifle her own laughter at the situation.
Mary Beth said, "You must excuse my Niece, she's not house broken, yet."
Everyone turned toward Brenda with surprise, and said, "Your Niece?"
"Yes, this unfortunate wayward child is my Niece. I wasn't going to say anything before, because I didn't want to cloud your judgment. But I think we can safely say we're past that point, now."
There were now additional greetings given to Brenda, in the light of this new understanding, and the obviously deeper expressions of sympathy for what she had endured.
When they finished Mary Beth said, "After everyone left this afternoon Brenda and I had a little chat about what happened, and what she'd experienced. She said something that triggered a memory I've found to be of utmost importance. In a minute, Deke, you'll find out why what you said set off this miniature version of 'Old Faithful,' here."
Turning to Brenda, Mary Beth said, "I need you to repeat, in your own words, about how you were feeling about yourself. Tell us about what happened when you were feeding John, and then what happened when he tried to save you at the end."
"OK, as I told Aunt Beth, they tried to break my spirit. After the initial rape they used torture, nudity, and verbal abuse to try to convince me no one would ever find me desirable again; that I was 'tarnished goods.' I suspect they thought if they broke my spirit I'd beg them to take me, thus eliminating the rape charge. When I was feeding John some soup I found I couldn't bring myself to look him in the eye. When I looked down, though, he had an erection. This helped me realize I was still a desirable young woman. At that point my confidence and self-assurance began to return. John apologized for his erection, but he still had it when he rushed Jerome to keep him from raping me. When our momentum carried us to the sofa I was on the bottom and John was on the top. By a sheer accident his penis penetrated my vagina."
Mary Beth asked, "Are you certain he had an erection?"
Giggling, Brenda answered, "It was very hard, and felt good, before those other guards started beating on him. They wouldn't stop, no matter what I said."
Mary Beth continued, "Deke, that's why she reacted the way she did to your 'something important coming up' remark. Now she doesn't know the facts here, only that I became excited and started screaming 'Erection! Erection!'"
Elizabeth interjected with, "I certainly hope your secretary didn't overhear you at that moment. That little scene would be very difficult to explain."
When the laughter died down Mary Beth continued, "This folder contains a copy of all the pertinent data on the case of Mister John Grayson. Let me read you a passage. This is from the investigator's notes. 'After further questioning Missus Grayson about their marriage she began to hint things weren't normal. When I pursued this line further she kept hinting Mister Grayson had a rather kinky fetish. After more questions she broke down and said it was impossible for Mister Grayson to get an erection without looking at pictures of little girls, and the only time they had sex was for her to dress like a child, and straddle his lap while he looked at pictures on the computer.'"
Mary Beth paused for this to sink in. Finally, a few moments later, she explained. "It's this revelation by his wife, over a week after the shooting, that became the basis for the search warrant and confiscation of Mister Grayson's computer. There they found a large amount of child pornography. In addition, in a hidden file, they found detailed and graphical notes of how he planned to kill his wife's boss, and make it look like self-defense."
Incredulously Deke replied, "More than a week after the killing they go get a computer that's been open to anyone, and from that build a case of murder. I bet his attorney had a field day with that."
"No. He never questioned it."
"He what!!!!!!" Even Brenda joined their scream of astonishment.
"He never filed a brief to suppress the evidence as tainted. He never appealed to the judge, or to a higher court, and he never challenged the jury to use this as a basis for reasonable doubt. Then from my Niece we hear how this young man apologized for having an erection due to her nudity. Then later, it was still firm enough to penetrate her seldom used vagina entirely in one movement. Now, I don't know about you three, but I think something is very rotten here. In fact, it smells so bad I think this should radically shift the emphasis of our quiet little investigation."
Zed nodded, and then said, "You realize this could cost you your job, Mary Beth?"
"Zed, despite the fact I'm getting older (or maybe because of it) I have to spend time every morning in front of a mirror trying to make myself look presentable."
Zed interposed, "And you do a good job of it, I may add."
"You old goat, are you flirting with me?"
Zed said, "Maybe a little, but it's actually just an honest observation. I'm not sorry for what I said, but I'm sorry for interrupting you. Please continue."
Mary Beth smiled a very warm and pleasant smile while she continued. "I will. But we're going to have a private conversation, later, concerning your remarks. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. I don't think my conscience would let me put my job above doing what was right, even as a private citizen. If it gets to that point they can take this job and shove it so far up their asses they can observe their tonsils from the inside."
Zed replied, "Woman, I like your attitude. If they fire you, you can always come to stay with me at the ranch. It gets pretty lonely out there since Maria died."
"Zed, is that a proposal?"
"It could be."
"Then we're definitely going to have a private conversation on this matter, but this isn't the time or the place. Do any of the rest of you have any comments?"
Brenda snickered, "About the presentable, the offer, or the 'private conversation'?"
Mary Beth rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, and said, "Well, Gang, you've just seen a prime example of why they say 'relatives and fish both smell after three days.' No, I'm talking about John Grayson."
Deke looked at the others and caught their nods. He then said, "Mary Beth, you've been a dear friend to all of us, over the years. I think we all agree with you there's something rotten, here. Whether we can prove it enough to get his conviction overturned, or to get the governor to give him a pardon, is another matter. The key point you're making is we have to try to rectify this seeming travesty of justice. In that, I think we all agree. I do have one question, though."
"What does Zed have that I don't have?
Mary Beth's eyes were dancing brighter than they had in many a year, as she thought about what Deke had asked. Finally she looked at Deke and answered, "It's what you do have, that Zed doesn't -- a wife."
Laughing himself, he replied, "Oh. But what if I remedied that situation?"
Her face turned very serious as she said, "Under the light of what we're talking about, I think we need to let that line of teasing go.
The chastened Deke replied, "Sorry. I just got caught up in the teasing, and our love for you over the years. I'll tell you some surprising things, sometime."
"Like marrying Tracy because she reminded you of me, and you knew I'd never desire you in that way?"
Shocked, Deke asked, "You knew?"
"Deke, my darling friend, Tracy and I both knew it from the beginning. She and I had a long talk. When I realized she accepted our relationship, and when she knew I wouldn't be jealous she and I became close friends. Who do you think she goes to Vegas with on her 'little jaunts'?"
"She says it's with a couple of women friends."
Elizabeth added, "Those friends are Mary Beth and myself. Now, I suspect this conversation could go on for a good while, but we need to stay focused here. Tell us about this John Grayson."
Mary Beth replied, "I'll give you some highlights, but there's much about the person I don't know. He was born in Opelika, Alabama. When he was eight they discovered he had a genius IQ. His parents owned a small Dry Cleaners, and didn't have the money to send him to a special school. He was so bright and so eager to learn his teachers volunteered to help him after hours. This enabled him to skip several grades along the way. He graduated from high school at fourteen. He attended Auburn for a year, and then transferred to Stanford where he earned a Bachelors and a Masters in Computer Science, in just three years. He then went back to the south where he got an Accounting Degree from Georgia State, and finally an MBA from Georgia. What's more, when he moved here to Phoenix to work for a software firm, developing business uses for the Internet, he wasn't old enough to buy a beer."
"And what did you have him doing at the prison?"
"Making furniture. And just like everything else he has done, he excelled at it."
Zed asked, "What about money? During that time, I can't imagine that kid not being loaded."
"There's nothing here on it, but I suspect it's something we want to seriously review. It seems I remember a line from an old Robert Redford movie: 'Always follow the money. That's where the truth lies.'"
Later that evening Warden Saunders (Mary Beth), Brenda Gilford, and Doctor Elizabeth Johnson stepped from the elevator onto the sixth floor of the Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. The two guards standing outside the door of room 622, stood up straighter at the sight of the three women heading their way.
The senior of the two asked, "Good evening, Warden, what brings you here, tonight?"
"We were in Phoenix and decided to come check on the prisoner."
Seeing his puzzled look, she added, "Brenda here is my Niece. She was the one whose life Mister Grayson saved."
With a little smirk on his face he replied as he opened the door for them, "Then I understand." After the ladies entered the room, he closed the door.
As soon as it was shut the other guard snickered, "From what I heard, he was raping her when our guards got there."
The senior guard said, "Or maybe she was rewarding him. She sure doesn't act like she thinks he was a rapist."
"Hummmmmm, that's true. Either that, or she likes it rough."
"Do you want to pull her out of there and test your theory here in the hall, in front of the Warden?" Then, looking at the frightened look on the other guard's face he continued, "Or - maybe you don't."
Inside the room the women looked at the unconscious prisoner. His face was so swollen that it looked more round than oval. The colors of the exposed parts of his body looked like a madras shirt that had been allowed to bleed (fade) too long with splotches of red, deep blue, purple and yellow blending into a complex pattern that was more appropriate for a child's coloring book than for a man's face. Three of his fingers were in splints, and his shoulder had been taped to allow the corrected dislocation to heal.
Brenda leaned over and spoke to him quietly. There was no verbal response from John, but Elizabeth Johnson noted a fluctuation on the screen monitoring his brain waves, and his heart beat increased slightly. She reached into her purse and pulled out a travel toothbrush holder. Opening it she removed a hypodermic syringe filled with a fluid. She removed the cap over the needle, and held the needle point up while she carefully brought a small drop out of the needle. Satisfied there were no bubbles in the syringe she slowly injected it into John's IV, explaining, "This is a combination of several mild stimulants and Ativan to suppress anxiety without suppressing sexual sensitivity."
While they waited for the shot to take effect Doctor Johnson monitored the display showing John's brain activity, heart rate, and blood pressure. Finally satisfied the shot had had time to take affect she slowly eased the sheet down John's body until his genitals were only covered by the hospital gown.
She pointed to Brenda, who leaned over, licked John's ear softly and whispered, "John, my hero, it's Brenda. When you get well, I'm going to give you your reward and fuck your eyes out of their sockets." John's heart rate jumped, and so did his blood pressure. His brainwave activity also increased significantly, and the rapid eye movement under the lids showed he was now in REM sleep. Suddenly there was a loud argument going outside the door. Doctor Johnson went to the door and saw a nurse arguing with the guards that she needed to get to her patient.
Looking at the nurse's name tag Elizabeth said, "Nurse Price, I'm Doctor Elizabeth Johnson, and I've been sent here on behalf of the prison to evaluate Mister Grayson's condition. I was observing Mister Grayson and talking to the guard whose life he saved. He reacted positively when he heard her voice and then went into REM Sleep."
The nurse still seemed rather perturbed at the situation, but she grudgingly went back to the nurses' station. Doctor Johnson thanked the guards for their diligence, and went back into the room. John Grayson was still in REM sleep, but resting peacefully. His monitors were still showing increased activity, but it had gone down considerably.
Doctor Johnson came over to the side of the bed, and in an outstanding imitation of a little girl, said in a soft Lolita voice, "Mister Johnson, thanks for babysitting me this afternoon. See my new panties. Momma told me not to show off my 'coochie.' Would you like to see my 'coochie'?" There was no change in John Grayson.
Brenda leaned over and whispered, "Lover, are you dreaming of me?"
Bing! John's penis went fully erect, and his monitor activity jumped again. He opened his eyes a fraction, though he still couldn't focus through the slits. His face forced a small smile and he said, "Yep."
"Well, Mary Beth, I'll run some additional tests when he's more awake, but I think you've got your answer. This man is not a pedophile."
Mary Beth added, "And if the lead to his computer came from his wife, and she was lying about the child pornography, then why wouldn't the rest of it be a lie, also?"
Three weeks later the original group, with the exception of Brenda, met at Zed Andrews' Ranch. It was late afternoon, and they were sitting on the wrap-a-round porch discussing what they'd discovered about this strange case. Zed was the quintessential, semi-retired rancher. Tall in the saddle at six-four he was lean and lanky from long hours of physical labor. His thinning sandy hair topped a face tanned and toughened by the sun and the wind. His piercing blue-gray eyes had the look of an eagle, and it was easy to believe they had stared down many a man who'd tried to oppose him.
Warden Mary Beth Saunders was relaxing for the first time this week, and the Wild Turkey and water she was sipping on wasn't hurting a bit. She was in her mid-fifties, but looked at least ten years younger. At five-seven she wasn't a petite woman, but the deep blue silk blouse she was wearing brought out the blue in her eyes and complemented her shoulder length chestnut hair. The blouse was styled to suggest that, though her breasts were not huge, they were still substantial, and didn't sag like many women her age. Her cream-colored poplin riding skirt, or culottes, was short enough to show her legs, which were propped up in a rather unladylike manner on the banister. They were slender and perfectly proportioned without a road-map of blue and red veins. The wide brown leather belt with blue and white decorative stitching emphasized her slender waist.
Doctor Elizabeth Johnson, on the other hand, was dressed in a top and jeans that showed she didn't exercise as she should, and her graying hair made her look older than she was. She had a pleasant face, even though it was a little flabbier than it could've been. Her soft brown eyes showed deep emotions and compassion. She didn't have what could be considered a poker face, because every expression on her face was very easy to read.
If one had to compare the two Doctor Johnson fit the profile of an aging, but self-satisfied mother, full of care and kindness, while Mary Beth was a mature, classy woman, who loved being a woman in a man's world. She didn't try to 'be a man' or to compete with men. She saw them as partners, working together toward a common goal.
Deke Templeton was the preppy college boy who grew out of 'Yuppiedom' as he matured, but never learned to relax. Even though he had on a casual shirt and slacks they were starched and ironed. With his perfectly styled, black hair, that had just a hint of gray in the temple, and his spa produced tan he might as well have been wearing a three-piece suit. The only thing that seemed to relate him to his friend, Zed, was his piercing blue eyes.
Zed asked Elizabeth, "So you've completed all your tests? What are your conclusions?"
"First, the young man has no pedophile tendencies whatsoever, zero, zilch, nadda. Second, I had him tell me the whole story under hypnosis. He didn't pull the trigger. He wasn't even in the room when the victim, J. William Brockman, was shot. Grayson confessed trying to protect his wife, Candice, who told him she shot her boss when he tried to rape her. Grayson figured the worst he would get would be justifiable homicide."
Zed replied, "Shit!! Mary Beth, let's put that proposal on hold for the moment, you might decide to do me in that way."
Mary Beth laughed, "Zed, you know I wouldn't do something like that to you. Now, how much did you say this ranch was worth?"
When the laughter quieted down she continued, "Zed, what did you discover at the lab?"
"The lab's supervisor is now retired, and if he got any money over this it doesn't show. I talked to him at his home, and he explained he assigned lab technicians to cases on a rotational basis. The only thing he remembers unusual about the case was that the original tech got food poisoning and the second tech had to take a leave of absence to go to Chicago to care for his mother. Someone had bumped her on the stairs at a mall, and she'd fallen and broken her hip."
"And the third?"
"Supposedly he took a job in California about six months later. That wouldn't be that unusual, as he was the tech with the least seniority, but when I called California they said they never heard of him. I've checked around, and I can't find anything on him. It's almost like the earth opened up, and swallowed him." After letting that thought sink in Zed added, "At that point I went to the CID as I wanted to review the file containing the evidence and the lab report. The final copy of the report was there, but no notes, working copies of the report, or physical evidence could be found. I went to the evidence control log, and it said that all physical evidence had been sent back to the Phoenix Police Property Room. I happened to be friends with the sergeant who heads the property room, or evidence locker, so I paid my friend a visit. I told him that with the publicity of the prison incident I was considering writing a book about John Grayson. Expressing a desire to understand his original conviction I said I wanted to look at some of the evidence, just to get a feel in my mind for this man. My friend didn't think there would be a problem, so he pulled up the computer file that showed where the evidence was stored. It showed everything was still being held by the crime lab at the CID."
Shaking his head with a very perplexed look Deke Thomas said, "This whole thing is getting crazier and crazier. I checked out the attorneys involved, as well as the judge. They're all prominent men who've excellent reputations, and who travel in different circles. Not having any other direction I talked to each. When I did I found myself chasing my tail in a circle with the defense attorney sending me to the judge, who sent me to the prosecutor, who sent me back to the defense attorney."
Mary Beth asked, "So where did you go from there?"
"I finally invited them all to lunch, saying that with the publicity relating to the defendant the AG's (Attorney General) office wanted some background to head off speculative reporters. I found it was the first time the three had ever discussed the case outside of the courtroom."
"The prosecutor said he was pressured by the mayor, the DA, and other civic leaders to do whatever it took to get the 'pervert' behind bars. This was shortly after the child care / pedophile cases in California and Georgia, and they wanted the door slammed shut on this guy without all the media publicity. That was why the primary effort was on the murder case, which the prosecutor thought was rather weak. Then, when the defense offered to roll over in court for a life sentence rather than the death penalty he saw no choice but to take it."
"Interesting, what else?"
"The defense attorney said he was given a signed statement from Mister Grayson saying he didn't want to drag his wife through the courtroom and media speculation. It directed him to make a deal for life, if they wouldn't fight the evidence."
"Did he ask Mister Grayson about it?"
"Yes, and according to him, Grayson kept saying that he had signed the paper. The attorney said it was a little strange, because Grayson never stated what paper he signed."
"He accepted that?"
"Well, according to him he asked Grayson specifically if he really wanted to not fight the evidence and settle for life. He said Grayson answered in a monotone voice, 'I signed the paper.' The judge corroborated this when he asked Grayson about the deal made with the prosecution. He said Grayson answered in the same way."
Elizabeth asked, "Did you see the letter?"
"Yes, the defense had it in their case file. I had three handwriting experts all agree it was definitely Grayson's signature."
Mary Beth looked at Elizabeth, and asked, "Drugged?"
"I doubt it, but he could well have been hypnotized. When I worked with him he seemed exceptionally easy to put under. That would also fit his answers to the defense and to the judge. He couldn't have betrayed his basic nature, so his instructions could've been worded in such a way as to not cause conflict, since he did sign it. That would work, even if he signed it while in a hypnotic sleep."
Mary Beth took a long sip of the bourbon, and asked, "Deke, you're the attorney and know the 'in and outs' of the law. What do you think?"
Shaking his head with a sad expression he said, "Mary Beth, I also checked on the money side of the case. Shortly after Grayson's conviction his wife stated the publicity of the case was making it impossible to live in the area. She produced a power of attorney from Grayson and proceeded to empty his bank accounts, also sell his stocks and their house. She supposedly moved to the Chicago area, but I can't find anything about her after that. Like Zed said earlier, it was like the ground opened up and swallowed her, and six million dollars, plus change."
"Six million dollars?"
"That's what she had left after making donations to charities."
"Yeah, surprised me too. She gave to the Public Television Station, The Red Cross, a homeless shelter, a home for battered women, and the biggest amount went to an East African missionary agency run by her ex-boss's brother."
"Yes, I talked to the bank manager who took care of the transaction. He remembered it, because it was the first time he had wired money to a Nevis Bank."
"What's a Nevis Bank, and how much was it?"
"Nevis is a small Caribbean country with some of the most stringent banking laws in the world. The amount transferred was two million dollars. The Bank manager said Candice, the wife, remarked it was to partially atone for her husband killing the brother of the man heading the missionary group."
"Have you found out anything about the brother, or the missionary group?"
"The Reverend Joshua Brockman, the brother, arrived just in time to conduct the funeral for his brother. He stayed long enough to sell his brother's businesses and collect the insurance. He told one person I interviewed he was giving it all to God, as he was a man of simple needs. His attitude really made an impression on everyone that met him."
Zed asked, "Do we know how much money was involved?"
"The victim, J. William Brockman, had a five million dollar life insurance policy. With double indemnity for accidental death, it paid ten million. The missionary brother was the beneficiary. The victim's will also left his entire estate to the brother, except for a hundred thousand to his ex-wife and a second hundred thousand in a trust fund for his child. Also, Brockman was already negotiating the sale of his real estate business and investment properties, so the brother just completed the sales. He found a buyer for his bother's house, and sold it, furnished. The victims car was leased, so he just turned it in, and paid a small penalty. The total that was transferred to the Mission account in Nevis was more than twenty million dollars."
Zed's eyes narrowed in thought while he stroked his chin with his right thumb and forefinger. Finally, he asked, "So what happened to the missionary brother and the ex-wife and child?"
"I spoke to the ex-wife, who was a bitter bitch. She'd been getting five thousand dollars a month in child support and ten thousand in alimony, so she wasn't real happy with the will. Her lawyer told her due to the viciousness of the divorce, and the fact that the money ultimately went to charity, he doubted she'd gain anything by fighting it. She'd only be throwing her money away."
Mary Beth asked, "What do we know about the divorce?"
Deke answered, "There were claims and counter claims of infidelity, but no 'smoking gun' was produced by either side. She said she was sure he had a mistress at work, but could never prove it."
"What about the missionary brother?"
"He returned to Africa within a month of his brother's burial. A short time later he returned to the states speaking at different churches and Christian Colleges about the work they were doing. It's very typical of the kind of things a missionary director would do. He was in the US for about five months when an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in the area around his mission caused him to rush back to Africa. Before it was over with he and all his workers were dead."
"And the mission?"
"I can't find any reference to it anywhere beyond that point, and the banking and corporate laws of Nevis are almost impossible to pierce. It's as dead a trail as there could be."
Mary Beth asked, "Deke, what's your conclusion?"
"My first thought, when I looked at it, was it was too pat. I thought maybe the whole thing was a sham. I went back to the medical examiner's report, and it was conclusive the victim was J. William Brockman. The brother had requested a DNA test be done while he was on the way here from Africa."
"Is a DNA test normal in a situation like that?"
"No, it's not normal, but the medical examiner honored the brother's request."
Elizabeth asked, "Why would he make such a request?"
Zed replied, "To establish definite identity, which makes no sense; the victim's identity was never questioned."
Deke responded, "It would be if someone thought a group like us might want to reopen the case."
Mary Beth said, "There's still something missing here, but I'm at a loss as to what it is. Anybody else have any thoughts?"
They all dejectedly shook their heads. Finally, Deke said, "Personally, I think John Grayson is an innocent man framed for this murder. Unfortunately, we've nothing that will stand up in court, except circumstantial evidence. I see no way to have the case re-opened on appeal, nor to convince the Governor to grant a pardon."
Elizabeth said, "But we've got to do something."
Mary Beth responded, "I agree, but the only thing I know we can do is to tell him what we know, and that we believe him, even if we can't prove it in court. Emotionally, he'll find it unfair. However, I think, ultimately, it'll help him to know others believe in him, and have done all they could to free him. The other thing I can do is to try to make his life a little less of a horror in prison."
Elizabeth nodded, and asked, "When do we do this?"
"What's everyone's schedule next Wednesday?"
By Wednesday morning Brenda Gilford was going crazy with anticipation. Her Aunt had refused to answer any of her questions about John. She only said all would be revealed in a meeting on Wednesday, which was today. At about 11:00 a.m. she received a request to come to the Warden's office.
On arrival, she saw her Aunt's friends, her immediate supervisor, the Guard supervisors for all three shifts, and several of the senior guards. It had the appearance of a very unusual meeting.
After making sure they wouldn't be disturbed and everyone was comfortable Mary Beth begin to speak to the group. "I called you all here to clear the air, and to deal with some very important issues. Now, I've worked with most of you for many years. Part of what I'm going to say probably needs to remain confidential, but I'm not going to swear you to secrecy, or anything like that. I do want your promise to weigh carefully what information from this meeting you share, and with whom you share it."
After each person nodded their agreement she introduced Deke and the others, and continued, "This concerns John Grayson. I'm not going to elaborate on the circumstances, but we have determined four very important facts. First, John Grayson is a bona fide hero who twice put his life on the line to save my Niece, Brenda Gilford, from rape or worse. Second, when the SWAT team broke in Grayson was not raping Brenda, nor was she rewarding him. Purely by accident his momentum caused him to land on top of Brenda at just the right angle and in the right position. They were both too much in shock to immediately react, and then Grayson passed out just as the SWAT team entered the room. The SWAT team was all over him before Brenda had a chance to roll him off of her." Pausing and looking around the room she expected to be flooded by questions, but no one spoke up. Therefore, she continued, "Thirdly, the fact Mister Grayson had an erection sufficient to enter Brenda in such a manner caused me to question something. In reviewing the facts on the case I found that, according to his wife's statement to the police, this was an impossibility. It's from this statement about Grayson requiring to view child porn to get an erection that led to the child porn part of the conviction. And even more important, it was during that investigation the file that showed the premeditation of the murder was discovered. This was ten days after the murder was committed."
One of the supervisors asked, "And the evidence wasn't thrown out by the court? By that time anyone could have put those files on the computer."
"That was my question, too, so Deke and the others helped me do our own investigation." Handing a sheet of paper to each she continued, "This is a summary of what we learned, which leads to the fourth fact. Mister John Grayson is completely innocent, but it can not be proved sufficiently to get the case reopened, or to get the governor to grant him a pardon."
After they'd all read the sheet the supervisor who spoke up first said, "Damn, what a shitty deal. Anyone wanna bet Brockman's mistress wasn't Grayson's wife?"
Another supervisor replied, "No takers, here. Warden, what can we do? For me to do this crummy job I have to believe everyone in here is guilty. Now how can I do that?"
"George, to answer your first question, we make sure Grayson is treated with respect, and is protected as best we can. Letting some of the facts become known among certain prisoners won't hurt. From what I've learned many men here have grown to respect Grayson. I also plan on utilizing his computer skills to help us in the administrative area. Now for your final point, you need to remember this is a special case. This man was systematically framed in a diabolical way that would be way out of the scope for the others here who claim innocence. Does that make sense?"
Smiling, he responded, "So, what you're saying is sometimes injustices happen, but we can't say the whole system is a failure."
Deke responded, "I couldn't have expressed it better. In response to what Warden Saunders said, the best way I can state it is; just because Grayson was given a shitty deal it doesn't mean we have to rub his nose in it."
John awoke with a start, and looked around the room. It was just like he remembered it the night before, and that did nothing to dissipate the confusion flooding his mind. The best way he'd describe the situation was his world was upside down, and, if that was uncomfortable in the real world, it was downright terrifying in prison!
He'd been released from the hospital more than a week ago, but, for some unknown reason, he was still being confined to a section of the prison infirmary. He was back to wearing one of those orange prison jumpsuit / overall affairs, and there was a guard outside of his door, but, otherwise, it seemed more like he was in a motel room than a prison.
When they moved him into this room it'd been an injury ward. The five hospital beds were immediately removed and replaced by a queen-sized bed. A Lazy-boy and two love seats formed a 'U' shaped arrangement with a forty-five inch HDTV closing off the other end. Shit, there were even curtains on the fucking windows! Whoever heard of curtains in prison?
Even stranger were the meals he'd been getting. If the other prisoners knew he was eating like he was they'd have lynched him within the hour. Thick country ham steaks with homemade potato salad, fresh green beans, and Mexican style fried cornbread with jalapeno peppers. Rib eye steaks! Chicken Marsala! Pork barbecue! and more. John honestly felt like a turkey being fattened up for Thanksgiving.
The strangest things were the daily visits by Warden Saunders and Brenda, whom he'd learned was the Warden's Niece. They seemed genuinely interested in how he was doing, and if he needed anything. The Warden even asked if having the walls painted, and pictures added, would make it feel less like a prison cell. When John replied it probably would she said she'd have it painted as soon as he picked out the colors.
This last was almost too much for John's fragile emotional state. Warden Saunders was never harsh or cruel to the prisoners. But she was a no nonsense 'take names and kick ass' type of person. Well, actually she had to be that way to run a prison. The inmates didn't fear her, but they respected her. They knew she tended to respond in kind. If you're pleasant and cooperative, she'd reward you, even if it was just with one of her smiles that could light up the darkest room in the 'hole' (solitary). But if you were belligerent, antagonistic, or thought you could intimidate her she'd tear you a new asshole in a heart-beat.
Prison might not be a wonderful place, but John had come to feel a sense of security in the consistency. Now that feeling of security was in a weird state of flux that made him almost feel the inmates were running the asylum. Not that he was complaining, you understand, but when a person has been in lockup for almost five years he tends to get paranoid. John remembered Lester saying, "The first thing that happens when you come into a place like this, is you discover you've virtually no freedoms, and no rights. What the guards and the system don't take away, the other prisoners will." John had been without any basic choices or freedoms for more than five years. It was miserable, but it was what 'was.' Now he was being asked about decorating his room, making his own color choices. In addition, each morning he was even given a menu from which to choose what he wanted for the next few days' meals.
The final straw was a few minutes past midday on a Wednesday afternoon, with his lunch was due any minute, there was a knock on the door - no one knocks on a prisoner's door. In fact, the only doors prisoners normally have are barred cell doors. John opened the door, and there stood Warden Saunders waiting for him to invite her into his room. John was too young to remember the 'Twilight Zone,' but if he had he would've been certain he was caught up in one of the episodes. After standing there staring at her until she cleared her throat John invited her to enter. She came just inside the room, softly placed her hand on his arm, and asked, "John, would it be possible to arrange an appointment with you this afternoon, at about two-fifteen? I've some people I want you to meet, and we want to discuss some things with you. I thought it might be easier to do it in here."
He was still in a state of shock; so shocked at this whole idea he stuttered and stammered for a few moments before he finally answered, "I haven't checked my social calendar, but I think it's OK."
She started laughing at his comment, and then she put her arms around him and gave him a hug. It wasn't a sexual embrace, but was loving, just the same. When she let go John noticed tears in her eyes while she said, "Son, I just wish I could adopt you." With that she twirled, and left the room. Life was getting stranger and stranger.
A few minutes later there was another knock at the door. John opened it and there was Brenda wearing a light mauve peasant blouse pulled down off of her shoulders and a slate blue full style skirt that came to just above her knees. Both the collar of the blouse and bottom three inches of the skirt were intricate lace, dyed to match the rest of the garment. She was pushing a cart, and said, "Lunch time."
He opened the door the rest of the way, bowed slightly, and said, "Enter, My Lady," as he gestured for her to enter with a sweep of his right arm. His left shoulder, and upper arm were still taped, and the aluminum and foam splints were still on three fingers of his left hand.
Her eyes lit up brightly at his 'courtly' gesture, and she started giggling. Her giggle was like tiny wind chimes tinkling in a soft breeze. She pulled the cart over to the table, and asked, "Do you mind if I eat with you? I figured you could use the company."
John smiled, and said, "I'd love the company. So what's for lunch today?"
Brenda was setting places at the table while she answered, "Grilled Salmon with dill, Potatoes Anna, a medley of steamed vegetables, and cheese garlic toast. I have a berry cobbler for desert."
"Wow, sounds delicious. I don't think I've ever eaten so good. Who's preparing this wonderful food, and how do they justify it in the budget?"
Looking forlornly at the floor she replied, "I am, and I'm buying the stuff with my own money."
John was stunned. "Brenda, you don't have to do something like this; not out of gratitude, or out of pity."
There were tears in her eyes when she said, "John, it'll make more sense after the meeting this afternoon. But, for now, let's just say it was done out of love."
"John, please. Wait a little longer, and let my Aunt explain, OK? I think it'll be far better if you do." When John nodded, she said, "Good, Let's eat."
The meal was very good, and by the time they finished the dessert, John was stuffed. He thought, If they wanted me for the Thanksgiving turkey, it was a perfect time. They wouldn't have had to make corn-bread dressing to stuff me; there wouldn't have been any room!
When they got up from the table Brenda refused John's offer to help clean up, suggesting he should just relax instead. John turned some light classical music on as a background, and relaxed in the Lazy-boy to the point of almost falling asleep.
While John was falling deeper and deeper into the music there was a knock at the door. Brenda answered and ushered her Aunt and several others into the room. They came over to the two love seats, and sat. There wasn't room for Brenda, so she brought a chair from the dining area, and sat next to the Lazy-boy.
Warden Saunders introduced the others in the room, and explained, "John, while you were in the hospital we were doing some investigating. Because of something that happened while you were a hostage I'd some serious questions about your guilt. I apologize for violating your privacy, but you were tested in various ways while you were still unconscious and / or under hypnosis. Because of the results of your tests we did some deeper investigating into your case. We're now certain, without a doubt, you're innocent of all the charges."
An astonished John thought, Wow!!! They know I'm innocent!
Excitedly, he asked, "So when can I go free?"
There was a sad look on her face that shoved a spike up the ass of his excitement. She explained, "John, we know you're innocent, as do most of the important people in this prison, but we can't prove it in a court of law. We can't get the case reopened, and we can't take this to the governor without evidence we don't have." Handing him a sheet of paper she said, "Maybe this will help you understand."
Confused, John began to read the summary. He was impressed, they'd done as good a job on this as anyone could've. It didn't take him long to see the obvious fact he'd been betrayed by his 'loving wife.' At that point the anger and rage he'd felt just before he attacked Jerome began to permeate his body. Realizing those emotions needed to be suppressed, for the moment, John took several deep breaths and tried to relax. John's anger was still somewhat evident in his face when he looked at the Warden, and said, "So my 'loving wife' sets up this elaborate frame, removes all the evidence and 'hangs me out to dry.' Pardon my French, but that sucks."
"We happen to agree. What I've decided is to try to allow you as much freedom as we can provide without setting off alarms. The guard supervisors and some of the more important inmates are aware of your situation. They expect to keep your life from being hell out there. We'll use this part of the infirmary as your apartment. Within reason, we'll get you anything you ask for."
"How about a computer?"
"That was another area I wanted to talk to you about. If I provide you a computer I want you to promise me a few things."
"First, you'll not use it for hacking into other systems, or to do anything that could bring retribution back upon those of us who are trying to help you."
"I can readily agree with that."
"Second, you'll work with the system here, and maybe with other prisons in the system, to streamline operations. You've knowledge and expertise we could never afford to go out and hire."
"It would give me a challenge and a feeling of accomplishment, I can agree with that, also."
"Third, we'd like you to help teach some of the short term inmates computer skills they can use to get a decent job when they leave."
"Again, I don't have a problem with that. Now, I've some questions, Will I have access to the Internet?"
"John, we've a T-three line, so that's no problem. Now, your history file will have to be monitored, so I suggest you not visit any sites that could be considered pornographic, just in case there would happen to be child porn on the site. We don't need to be beaten to death over that issue. We'll set you up with an e-mail address within the administrative area, just as though you were an employee. Unfortunately, we'll have to review those, also."
"Warden, considering the circumstances, I'd say those are reasonable requests. What about stock trading?"
"Do you have anything to work with?"
"Let's just say I had some 'mad money' buried where my wife couldn't get to it."
"Don't you mean ex-wife?"
"Is - Your name's Deke, right?" When he nodded, John said, "You're the lawyer, can a divorce be finalized if the husband is never served?"
"Only in very unusual circumstances. So you want me to check?"
"Yes, if you would, because there's a prenuptial agreement that gives her virtually nothing."
Deke slammed his forehead with his open palm. "Prenuptial agreement, why didn't I think of that? John, who was your attorney?"
"Julian Sanchez, here in Phoenix."
"Then I'll get right on this."
John's face was more relaxed when he said, "Thanks. Listen, everyone, I really appreciate all you've tried to do for me. As for believing in me, that's incredible. If you don't mind, I'd like to rest and do some thinking. I think I've had too many surprises for one day."
After everyone had left John tried to take a nap on the bed, but his emotions were still going at full speed. Finally he realized he wasn't going to fall asleep. He got out of bed, sat in the Lazy-boy, and surfed the channels on the TV. A short time later he fell asleep watching one of his favorite movies, 'The Outlaw Josie Wales.' John always loved that Eastwood used real Indians to play Indians in his movies, and no Indian was ever killed by any of Eastwood's characters. John's favorite character in this movie was the old Cherokee Indian played by Chief Dan George.
A couple hours later, John was awakened by someone knocking at the door. When he opened it there was a guard with a food cart, and some folded clothes. In a friendly and compassionate voice the guard said, "Miss Gilford fixed supper for you earlier, and asked us to deliver it. As for these clothes, several of us are about your size, so we got you some casual clothes to wear when you're in your room. We thought it would make it feel less like a prison."
John replied, "Thank you. The casual clothes and the simple display of understanding is most thoughtful, and is greatly appreciated."
"If you need anything else, we're right outside."
"Thanks." The guard left, softly closing the door behind him. John moved the cart to the table, but before he ate anything he stared at the food and then stared at the clothes. It seemed like for more than five minutes, his eyes went back and forth between them, unable to decide which meant more, at that moment.
Finally, he grabbed a pair of jeans. He was so excited to be able to wear something normal, he almost tore the 'prison orange' jumpsuit trying to get out of it and put the jeans on. John decided they were a little loose, so he'd probably need a belt, especially since he had gotten into the habit of going 'commando,' as Lester had called going without underwear. John chuckled at the thought of facing a charge of indecent exposure if the jeans happened to drop at an inconvenient moment. He selected a blue plaid shirt to go with the jeans, and after getting everything in place, he went to the bathroom to look in the mirror. God, that feels better, he thought to myself.
Feeling better than he had in a long time John returned to the table and the cart with the food. There was a cover on the cart and when he lifted it he could see it was set up to be a portable steam table able to keep the food warm and moist for a good while. He set the food on the table. Brenda had prepared Fettuccine Alfredo with mesquite grilled chicken, and broccoli. In addition, there was a small loaf of fresh baked Italian bread. There was a plate of brownies for dessert. John looked at the food, smiled, and thought to himself, If I keep eating like this, maybe I won't need that belt after all.
When he finished he passed the cart to the guards at the door and thanked them again for the clothes. While he walked back to the Lazy-boy it dawned on him how much all of this really had made a difference to his mental attitude. Still thinking about all the changes in his life that had occurred that day he reclined and flipped around the cable channels. For some reason he was drawn to something on one of the educational channels about the Arizona Apache, watching it for more than an hour before he fell asleep.
John was still reclined in the Lazy-boy when he was awakened the next morning by Brenda pushing another food cart into the room. She was carrying some more clothes, including some soft leather boots and a belt.
He teased her, "What? No knock?"
"I did knock. But, between your snoring and the TV, I doubt you could've heard the fire alarm."
"So what do you have for me this morning?"
"Fresh fruit, and a toasted English muffin. I decided I need to cut back on your calories some, until we can get you on an exercise program."
"That's probably a good idea." Then looking at her seriously, he said, "Brenda, I appreciate these meals, but I hope you don't feel obligated to do this."
She came over and put her arm around his waist and said, "No, I really want to do this. I like doing this for 'my man.'"
John was a little stunned at that statement, and asked, "Do you feel like I'm your man?"
"Probably not in the sense most people would think, but you'll do fine until something better comes along. John, think of it as therapy for both of us. It doesn't have to be sexual, just the act of caring for one another is important. We haven't had sex, though I guess one time I tried. What is important is knowing you accepted me when things were at their worst. Dressing for you, cooking for you, even teasing and flirting with you; these things have given me purpose, self-confidence and self-respect. So, I guess that's what I mean by your being 'my man.'"
"Then I'll gladly be 'your man.'"
There were tears in her eyes when she hugged him tighter, and said, "Thank you."
She sat with John while he ate the smallest breakfast he had in a while. As he ate they talked about schools, home life, and her failed relationships. When they finished, he asked, "So what's on the agenda for the day?"
"Aunt Beth wants to have a planning session with you. Would it be OK to do it in here? That way you don't have to put your prison uniform back on."
"Sure, and since I slept in the Lazy-boy last night I won't even have to make up the bed."
Brenda went to a telephone hanging on the wall, and called her Aunt's office. She came back after a moment, and said, "She'll be here in about ten minutes. Why don't you shave while I take these dishes back to the administrative dining room? I don't know if I'll be in this meeting, or not, but I'll probably see you at lunch."
John gave her a little peck on the check, and said, "Thanks," She walked out of the room a little glassy-eyed, rubbing the spot where she had been kissed. John thought, She's a good kid. Kid? Hell, she's only three years younger than I am. I just hope I'm really helping her and not leading her onto a path of pain and anguish.
John went into the bathroom and found all the stuff from his old cell. He would've liked to have gotten a shower, but just gave himself a quick shave and brushed his teeth. When he realized he still had a couple of minutes he sponged off under his arms and crotch, and used some deodorant. When he finished he was surprised how much better he felt.
Before John could sit back down there was another knock at the door. Opening it he saw Warden Saunders with a man and a woman whom he had never met. She introduced them as Bill, their network administrator, and her secretary, Sarah. Then said, "John, I've known both of these two for years, so I've had no problem explaining what's going on, and your status. When I filled them in this morning Sarah reminded me we've an apartment at the back side of the offices that was intended for an Assistant Warden. The Assistant Warden's position has been phased out, so it's been vacant for a good while. Bill looked at it and determined it backs up to his work room. We'll be setting up some partitions, cutting a door, and other things to make it into more of a home than this is."
"Warden, that sounds good. This morning I was thinking about how nice it was to just have the respect a bit of privacy provides. Everyone knocks, now, and waits for me to open the door. The problem is, if we have a meeting in here I have to make sure the bed's made, etcetera."
"We'll probably modify things as we go along, but we should have you in your new home by tomorrow night. Now, what I really wanted to discuss is we've a real problem accessing information about current and prior inmates, because most of the really important data is all on paper. Now considering we've very little budget to work with, what can we do to make this information available to the administration, and then to the guard stations? Also, we'd like to link all the prisons into the system, as well as certain law enforcement agencies. We'll need to make sure only authorized people can reach the system, and it can't be updated from outside the administrative offices. That is, it should be as hack-proof as possible."