Tracy and Mikey
Tracy’s vision was blurry when she first opened her eyes. She saw that she was in a hospital room, which made sense considering the way she felt. Then she remembered what had happened, mentally relived it: Tommy Babbitt yelling “nigger-lover” as he shot Lee; the next shots that hit her and Danny.
She felt panic start to overtake her; she struggled to sit up, to get out of the hospital bed, as she cried out, “My baby!” A nurse came in with an orderly. She knew she was on the verge of panic, but couldn’t seem to stop herself.
The nurse took her hand, knowing it was against protocol but also sensing that the woman needed that human touch right then. “Your baby is all right, Mrs. Williams. You’ve just been through six hours of surgery and need to rest. If you move around too much, you’ll tear the stitches out, and some of them are inside, holding your intestines together. If those rip, you’ll get an infection that might kill you. Then who will take care of that beautiful baby of yours?”
Tracy looked at the nurse’s face, saw compassion written all over it, and let out a quiet sob. Then she asked, “What about my husband? Is he going to be all right?”
The nurse shook her head and said, “I’m sorry. The bullet hit his heart.” She took a syringe from the orderly, then turned back to her distraught patient. “This is a mild sedative to help you rest. It won’t put you to sleep, but it will make it easier for you to go to sleep naturally. Now just lay back and relax as much as you can.”
Danny cried as the social worker put him in the back seat of the car.
The woman buckled the seat belt and closed the door, ignoring the child’s cries, as Tracy was held back by a couple big, burly St. Pete cops. Then she turned to Tracy as she spoke. “We’ll be in touch, Mrs. Williams. In the meantime, try to stay out of trouble.” Then she got in the car, keyed the ignition, and drove off.
Tracy knew she’d probably never see her son again. The courts had ruled her incompetent and terminated her parental rights; it was as though she’d never had Danny, as far as they were concerned. She’d talked to a lawyer, the father of a friend from high school; he’d told her that he’d never heard of a termination proceeding coming so soon on the heels of a protective removal. But he would look into the matter, he’d said.
And now it didn’t matter. Today was her sentencing hearing; she was going to prison for killing that bastard Tommy. She was sad about losing her family, but glad that son of a bitch was dead. She had nothing left to lose anyway, except her life. It was a wonder, she thought, they hadn’t sentenced me to the chair; that’s what they usually did with black folks.
She was glad Mr. Mitchell was there, the only cop she knew wouldn’t hurt her because they were neighbors and knew each other. He’d been in court to watch every day he was off duty, and had spoken to her quietly a couple times, offering his and his wife Adelle’s moral support. But he couldn’t keep the sadness from his face when they saw each other.
Now here he was. Taking her to an interrogation room, quietly talking to her. “I’m gonna try to get you a lawyer, Tracy. But I gotta be honest, you know it’s hard to find a good lawyer here to take this kind of case. So don’t get your hopes up, girl, you hear me?”
He stopped talking when they arrived at the door; his fellow officers mustn’t know what he’d been telling her. He followed her inside and stood by the door as she sat down in one of the chairs.
The courtroom was empty except for Judge Eberhart, the two law teams, four police officers for additional security, the bailiff, and, of course, Tracy, the Defendant. Clarence Eberhart had ordered the courtroom cleared when the assistant prosecutor objected to the defense motion to allow an FBI agent to be called as an expert witness on racial conflict, even when told the agent’s record showed that he had worked for years undercover infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. Shouting had erupted among the spectators for the third time; some of it was in support of the motion, but most was against it and in favor of the objection. Of course, the divide was along color lines; this was a highly charged case from the very beginning, as the trial of Tommy Babbitt had been.
“The jury has found the defendant guilty of manslaughter,” the judge said, “However, they and I find the circumstances egregious. The Court allowed testimony as to motivations, and that testimony has underscored the state of mind as well as the prior experience with the … I hesitate to call Mr. Babbitt the victim in this case, yet that is what legal tradition requires.
“That Mr. Babbitt attempted to rape the Defendant, then later, in the company and with the active participation of his two companions, killed her husband and attempted to kill her and her infant child, it seems to me that the Defendant was at least partially justified, in her own mind, in her actions at the time. I therefore rule that the Defendant, Tracy Williams, be remanded to the state penitentiary at Lowell, Florida, for a period of ten years. I further rule that Mrs. Williams be treated by a competent psychologist chosen by the State of Florida Department of Corrections and approved by this Court.”
The prosecutor stood up. “Your Honor, I object to the characterization of that victim in the terms you’ve used. He was found not guilty by a jury of his peers in this very Courthouse on the murder charge, and the alleged rape was never even reported, much less brought to trial. Furthermore, the other two victims were never even brought up on charges. And only 10 years for manslaughter? Judge, please. She’ll be eligible for parole in six years! That’s only two years for each killing!”
The judge looked over the top of his glasses at the prosecutor as he spoke in reply. “Your position is noted, Counselor, and you’re on the verge of being held in contempt.” He banged the gavel. “Case dismissed.”
But the prosecutor wasn’t finished yet. “I’ll take this to the news media! And I’ll report you to the judicial ethics committee!”
The judge took off his glasses, set them calmly on the dais, and turned his attention once more to the attorney. “You’ll do no such thing, Counselor. I’m hereby issuing a gag order. Neither you nor any other party to these proceedings will speak of this case to the media. Further, having been warned just prior to your outburst, I find you in contempt of court, and instruct the bailiff to escort you to the city jail across the street, there to be held for a period of fourteen days. So ordered.” He picked up his gavel once again and slammed it on the dais, then got up and left the courtroom through the door to his left, which led to his chambers.
Tracy, after a brief stunned silence, thanked her attorney, then turned to the police officers who were there to escort her back to her cell at the city lockup, where she would await transfer to the womens’ prison at Lowell.
Tracy went through the induction process on that first day with a numbed mind. She couldn’t believe she was really here, in prison, with a bunch of other women. She wondered how she could have sunk so low. She’d lost everything that ever meant anything to her. Family, home, future. Danny. Lee. All gone.
The few friends who had stuck by her and supported her emotionally were all she had now. She’d told them not to come see her caged up like an animal, to get on with their lives and let her get through this. But she knew they’d come anyway, at least at first. She’d welcome their familiar faces when they came, and tell them not to come any more.
After the forced shower and fumigation for lice or other infestation, she was issued her prison uniform, a bright orange one-piece jumpsuit. Then the guards led her to where she would spend most of the rest of her time for the next six years at least. Probably all ten, she thought glumly, because they’re not gonna give a black convict any breaks, especially for killing three white men.
That first day, she saw a couple other women looking at her oddly. She made up her mind to stay away from them as much as possible. She wanted to be left alone, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen. Still, she’d give it her best shot and see how long she lasted.
As it turned out, on the fourth day of her sentence, she was cornered by three women, all of them white including the two who had stared at her. She was in the laundry room, sorting the inmate’s clothing by the tags on collars and waistbands when they approached her from behind. They’d tried to be quiet about it, but her martial arts training, such as it was, held her in good stead; she heard the shuffle of slippered feet trying to make as little noise as possible, and she saw their shadows just before they would have struck.
She turned, saw two pale blondes and a redhead, and looked calmly at their faces as she asked, “What do you want?”
The trio smiled, leering, as the redhead replied, “We want you, new meat. You look tasty and fresh. And when we’re done, we’re gonna pass you around to all the other white gals in here before we kill you.”
Tracy looked back steadily, her wariness hidden. “You know you just made a mistake, don’t you? You told me what you’re going to do.”
“So what? There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m gonna make you my bitch until I’m tired of you. Then my friends here will have you. And after that, it’ll be like I said. And nobody will miss your black ass.”
Tracy smiled. “Well, here I am. Come and get me if you think you can.”
The redhead made a quick slashing motion, and the two blondes moved in to attack. But Tracy easily glided between them and kicked the redhead in the gut, then backed away and turned so she could watch all three women.
“This is too easy, ladies. Is that all you’ve got?”
One of the blondes moved an instant before the other, giving Tracy another opening. She stepped into the attempted blow as she took hold of that woman’s wrist, ducked and twisted, throwing her attacker over her shoulder and into the other blonde.
By that time, the redhead was recovering from the kick. She straightened up slowly, then asked, “Who the fuck do you think you are, that nigger bitch in those prison movies? You ain’t her, bitch, and that’s just movies anyway. There ain’t no nigger that bad-ass. You’ll find out the next time I come for you, bitch!”
She gathered up her companions and halfway staggered from the room just as a pair of guards entered. Tracy looked up and saw them, saw that one was a female, and it was obvious that they both knew what had just happened. She figured she was in trouble anyway, so she just stood there looking defiant as they approached. She wondered briefly how much of the short fight they had seen, or maybe they’d only heard the scuffle.
“Okay, Williams,” the male guard said, “you’ve been told the rules. But since you’re new here, we’ll give you a break this time. But once more, and you’ll have to spend some time in isolation. You got that?”
Tracy nodded and answered, “Yes sir.”
He looked her up and down, then said, “You got any injuries?”
“No sir, I’m fine.”
“Good. Now finish up your work here and get on to the mess hall.” He turned to leave; the female guard passed her a tightly folded piece of paper and she then followed the male.
When they were gone, Tracy opened the paper and saw it was a note. She read it:
Go to the exercise yard after dinner
Sit on the second bleacher bench from
the top, closest to the compound entrance
Get rid of this paper
She crumpled it up tightly, popped it in her mouth, and swallowed it.
After she ate, she did as the note instructed, looking around apprehensively. She wasn’t sure she should be doing this, but to not follow the directions could have repercussions. She found the bench in the bleachers and sat down. Nobody else was near her, which only served to increase her anxiety; yet she refused to let her state of mind show, keeping her awareness and readiness at their highest. If it was to be another fight, she’d give her best as long as possible.
After a few moments, she saw another woman, a dark-skinned black woman, climb the bleachers and ease onto the bench a few feet away. She was tall, almost six feet, and big-boned, weighing maybe two-forty or so. She looked rough yet in control of herself, almost poised if that were possible here.
The woman didn’t introduce herself. She rolled a cigarette from a little pouch of tobacco and lit it, took a deep drag and held it, then blew the smoke out slowly. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, pitched for Tracy’s ears only. “I heard you had some trouble with that red-haired bitch and two of her friends.” She talked in a slow drawl, then took another drag without turning her head, just kept looking straight out over the field.
Tracy answered, “Yeah, they tried to take me in the laundry room. But there’s nothing there I can’t handle.”
The big woman blew some more smoke, then said, “Yeah, I heard. But they ain’t the only ones. There’s a good half a dozen more where they came from. You think you can handle all a them by yourself? Ain’t nobody that bad. We all need friends in here, or we won’t last long, simple as that. I can be your friend. Then there ain’t nobody in here gonna mess with you.”
“Half a dozen more? So nine in all?”
“More than that, but those are the ones that follow her every move. The thing here is that the ones who don’t like us black folks will either sit back and watch, or join her in puttin’ you down. You what they call an uppity Negro, girl, so you gonna need some backup. Word to the wise is all I’m sayin’ if you can dig it.”
Tracy looked down for a minute, then back up. “I hear you. Just so you know, I don’t go for any of that girl-girl action. I don’t mind making friends, but not on that basis.”
The other woman smiled coldly. “I understand that. But just so you know, you can’t get away from it in here. If someone wants you, they’ll find a way to get you. Unless you have folks around you, they’ll get you.” She took another drag of her smoke, then dropped it on the concrete and stepped on it, twisting her foot left and right and putting it out. “You might as well make it something to enjoy, at least a little bit, instead of being forced into it and probably hurt or killed from it. But it’s your choice. I ain’t gonna force you; never had to force nobody before, and I ain’t gonna start now.”
The woman stood up, looking down at Tracy, then smiled again, not quite as coldly as before. “If you change your mind, just ask any of the sistas here where you can find Mikey. That’s short for Michaela, but ain’t nobody calls me that, not even my own family on the outside.” She turned to go, then stopped. Without turning back, she said, “You got spirit, girl, I’ll give ya that. Reminds me of me when I first got here.”
Then she walked off, leaving Tracy to ponder the discussion. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, even to herself, she knew Mikey was right. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to just give in without a fight, she thought. I’m not a damn lesbian.
Two nights later, Mikey came running into the shower room, along with several other black women. They were all ready to fight tooth and nail. A couple of them had come to tell her that there were at least a half a dozen white women headed toward the shower, led by the redhead, and the new girl was there. Mikey smelled trouble and gathered a group of women from her own circle to go to the showers with her.
As they approached, they heard the struggle and knew that Tracy was getting her ass kicked. Although Mikey figured that she’d do some damage along the way, the outcome was a foregone conclusion unless someone (Someone hell! Me and my crew!) arrived to help out. She entered the showers in time to see Tracy fall from a belly blow followed immediately by a roundhouse to her head.
Without even a signal, her group jumped into the fray, grabbing brunette, red and blonde hair to pull the white women back away from Tracy. Mikey rushed in, delivering a well-placed and well-timed kick to the lead redheads’ crotch, making her go down holding herself in pain. She knelt beside Tracy, looked her over to see if there was any major damage. She found a knife slash on her left arm, just missing the main artery. There didn’t seem to be any other major damage, but she sent one of her group to get a guard and another for someone from the infirmary.
Tracy woke up feeling groggy. Her vision was blurred and her head hurt, not to mention other parts of her body. She closed her eyes again, just for a moment, to block out the pain as much as possible. When she opened them once more, she saw what looked like a hospital room, but more drab if that was possible. In spite of the pain, she moved her head just enough to see the rest of herself.
Her left leg was wrapped in gauze and in a hanging sling for support. Okay, it must be broken, she thought. She lifted the sheet with her right hand; there was a large gauze bandage just below the lowest rib on the right, where she knew she’d been stabbed. Her right arm, also wrapped in guaze, throbbed; it felt like there was a line of fire running down it, like when a cat had scratched her but worse. Maybe a long slash from a knife or something.
From across the room came a somewhat familiar voice. “You’re back among the living.” She looked in that direction, near the barred window; it was Mikey.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, her voice slightly slurred.
“Well, it looks like I’m takin’ care of you. I’m a nurse, so they put me in here on permanent work assignment, depending on my good behavior.” She walked over to Tracy’s bed as she kept talking.
“Doctor says you’ll be here for a little while. Your leg is broke, the cut on your arm is infected, looks like the blade was dirty, and you have a concussion.”
“Who do I have to thank for me still being alive?”
Mikey smiled tightly. “That would be me and my crew. That red-headed bitch is in pretty bad shape too, but she’s under lockdown. The warden had her put in there after Doc patched her up.”
“Thank you. I owe you. I suppose you’ll want to collect on that debt in the way you suggested before.”
Mikey took Tracy’s hand in her own. “That wasn’t a suggestion, girl, that was just lettin’ you know what’s what in here. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind collectin’ that way if you were cool with it. But like I said, I ain’t never forced myself on a girl, and I ain’t ‘bout to start now. But if you want protectin’, you know where to find me.”
Tracy was silent, and Mikey walked off to make a note in her patients’ chart. After a few minutes, Tracy called her back over. “I’ve never had an interest in girls, Mikey. But I want to get out of here alive and whole if possible.”
Mikey looked into her eyes, searching for deception. Seeing none, she once again took Tracy’s hand, squeezing gently. “I’ll take good care of you, don’t you worry ‘bout that. The guards bein’ mostly female and the males not allowed near the cells, there ain’t much opportunity for anything you might consider normal. So we make our own normal in here. I’d like a man myself, but that ain’t gonna happen any time soon.”
Tracy sighed. “Yeah, there is that. It’s just that ... I don’t know. I still miss my husband.”
Mikey leaned over and kissed her on both cheeks, then gave her a rather chaste peck on the lips. “Believe me, I know, girl. I had a husband once too. Now you just relax.”
She slowly moved her free hand down to Tracy’s breast, gently cirled the nipple of each teat through the thin hospital gown for a moment while Tracy watched her, curious and apprehensive at the same time.
Tracy watched as Mikey’s hand travelled down her belly, pulled up the gown, and began to massage between her legs. She gasped as Mikeys’ thumb and index finger gently worked her clitoris. She gasped again as first one, then two, and finally three fingers slowly entered her …
Tracy was playing cards with Mikey and a couple other women when they saw two guards approaching with Warden Carter. They all looked up, wondering what was going on; the warden rarely came down into the yard like that. The game was forgotten for the moment as the trio stopped a few feet from the players.
The warden spoke. “Mrs. Williams, stand up please.” This was even more unusual; Carter never said please, not even to the guards. And she never called any of the prisoners “Miss” or “Mrs.” Tracy stood up. Mikey joined her, followed by the other two women, and took up positions behind Tracy, standing so they could see all three officials.
Tracy stared insolently, not saying anything.
Carter said, “Mrs. Williams, it’s my pleasant duty to inform you that you’ve been pardoned, and that your convictions have been set aside. We still need to process your paperwork, but by this time tomorrow, you’ll be a free woman. If you need to make any phone calls, let me or the guards know.”
The warden turned and walked away, followed by the guards.
Tracy looked at Mikey, who stood there staring at her friend and lover. Then all four women embraced in a group hug, jumping around and laughing like they were at a party.
That night, in the cell they’d shared for the past four years, Tracy and Mikey celebrated. They made love slowly, making it last as long as possible, knowing that it would be their last time together.
The next day, after Tracy had left, a guard handed Mikey a letter from Warden Carter. Mikey walked over to the bleachers, up to the top row, opened it and read,
“You’ve done well. We keep our promises.”
There was no signature, but Mikey knew who it was from. She knew she’d be out of this joint within a few months.
She wondered if she’d ever see Tracy again, then decided it was unlikely. But she’d be outside, and there would be plenty of men, even for a tall, big woman like her. And she wondered if Tracy would ever think of her again....