Chapter Twenty Three
Outside is a muggy night with no wind. Music plays in the distance and there are people cavorting on a wooden deck and splashing in a pool somewhere close-by, but Chantwell’s property is ringed with mature trees and none of his neighbours’ yards are visible. There are no lights turned-on in the house either. Megan must be away. I walk around the gorgeous piscina and out over the dimly lit lawn. Deep breath. I can do this. I can get my laptop back undamaged, and demolish this clown.
Flowering bushes, hibiscus varietals with white blossoms, become my changeroom where I take off my clothes. It’s weird to be naked outside at night, but also empowering; I steel myself into the role of assassin in a yellow two-piece. I can do this. When I step out, I wear the cute bikini and carry my jeans shorts and shirt, panties and bra in a bundle under my arm.
This wardrobe change is not reckless behaviour. While other gals might think it prudent to wear more clothes in the face of an obvious predator, I believe the opposite is true, and will dazzle and deploy a different strategy. I'll mesmerize and neutralize the fool. I channel Dr. Drennan’s wisdom, although I’m sure she wouldn’t approve of my actual plan.
Drubbin waits beside the diving board at the deep end of the pool. He holds my open laptop over the water. “Whoa Antonya,” he whistles and appreciates the sight of my body in the bathing suit. “Wha a pre lil white gyul you be nah. Mmmm Bam-se Lambay.”
“What a child you are,” I stand eight feet away. “Give me my property, idiot.”
“Come an gehtit.” He taunts me. This is the worst case scenario. I’m not going to risk my computer falling in the pool. So I pretend I don’t care.
I shrug and walk away to casually reenter the guest house and deposit my clothes on the sofa. There are plush towels in the cubby and I drape one over my shoulder. A moment later he appears at the door.
“Are you going to join me for a dip?” I ask. But instead of fighting past him in the entrance, I circle around behind the plastic covered couch and rinse out his empty beverage glass. That’s when I spot another plastic cup in his shopping bag. He brought two glasses. Of course he did. This was his plan; he wanted to get me drunk and have some fun. When things didn’t go as he’d hoped, he became childish.
I use the second glass to mix my own Greyhound and I make it really strong because I know I’ll never drink it. It’s just for show, or maybe for spray. The junior rapist still holds my Lenovo and blocks the door. So, I refill his glass too. I approach him with the towel over my shoulder while carrying two drinks, one in each hand. “Well, come on. Move. Let’s go swimming.”
“Ja only wans me ta se down da computer.”
“Wish you would.” I peek over his shoulder. “The water is warm tonight, I’m sure...”
“Uaaah?” He accepts the drink I made for him with his free hand. Now his hands are full and he probably finds my laptop a burden as he can’t stop me squeezing past him in the doorframe. He sets my Lenovo on top of the big TV, but he’s too late to catch me.
I circle around the pool and leave the strong beverage in the drink holder of the only lounge chair. Then I run and dive into the middle of the kidney. Splash!
The water is refreshing; I like swimming. Marcy’s family has a pool, but it’s small and square and not nearly as nice. I stay underwater for thirty seconds. When I rise to breathe, I see him unbuttoning his shirt. Oh no. He’s coming in. I really didn’t think he would.
Drubbin kicks-off his shoes and peels-off his pants, socks, shirt and undies. He’s got a small dick. If I wanted to make him angry I could tell him that, because I’m sure he already knows. It explains everything actually.
If he jumps in the water, I’ll get out. But I must wait until he’s fully committed. I watch with a huge fake smile as he runs naked and cannonballs into the pool. Splash. He sinks to the bottom and I swim to the ladder.
He surfaces a few seconds later and looks around for me. He's shocked when he sees me rifling through his pants. I get find his phone in his back pocket and raise it up to show him.
“Back off Toni. Put it down.”
“Oh sure, I will.” But instead I turn it on. It’s Android and password protected. I don’t know the code and don’t care. I just want to hand it to him real sloppily over the water. “Come and get it.”
“Don’t mess around Tone. Put it down.” He swims and then wades closer.
I very casually toss him his phone, which he catches, miraculously. I don’t say anything remedial that could expose my anger, nor do I threaten the safety of his device anymore than simply risking it in such a rough handoff. Instead I further confuse him and say, “I want you take pictures of me.”
Then I return to the cabin well aware I have less than a minute before he arrives. I return my laptop to the safety of my backpack, and fetch my boots from the bottom of my bag.
Drubbin splashes to the door soaking wet and watches me put on my hiking boots. He has no idea what I’m up to, but he probably laments that I’m donning clothes of any kind.
“I don’t have a phone so you have to take the pictures” I remind him of his earlier attack on my property. He stands naked and keeps silent. He probably doesn’t know what to think.
My black Madden Girl - Galloway boots are what I wore to work today. They’re sturdy with a steel shank under a two-inch heel. They’re leather lined and comfortable and they look badass on any girl in a yellow bikini. There’s a Flickr photography group called Bikini Babes in Boots and something similar on Instagram.
“Get your camera ready,” I encourage him, “I want you to send me these pictures.”
“Be better without the suit.”
“Yeah. Later okay. But can I trust you? Will you send me the nice pics and delete the rest?” I ask with an honest face. Of course I can’t. It’s just bait. Play along little predator.
He smiles, willing to accept my acting is real. He wants to believe I’m sincere and that he could create and issue such images. And that it would make me happy to pose nude in front of him. He’s thinking all of this I’m sure as he raises his Android. He’s soaking wet and naked and the little sparrow between his legs also raises its tiny head.
“Back up. You gotta get my boots.” I direct him into position.
“Aight,” he’s drunk and tipsy and spills the strong drink I made, but he doesn’t set it down.
“Crouch. I want low angle,” I say.
“Okay,” he grins and kneels. Perfect. All my rage returns and I dropkick his face. I hear bones break. My foot lifts his chin like a football player going for a distant field goal. I kick him so hard it hurts the top of my foot. I break his mouth, I’m sure. His whole body goes airborne and the back of his head bounces off the patio stones behind him. His drink goes flying. I pick up his phone and casually toss it in the pool. Yep. That’s where his phone belongs.
Then, where other girls might run away, I know better. I grab Drubbin’s ankles and drag his naked unconscious body back into the cabin. A blood trail issues from his mouth and nose. I roll him over on his stomach and tie his hands with AC extension cords. I start with the small brown lamp cords and move up to the thick orange cord for the lawnmower. Then I sit him up straight and wrap his torso with green garden hose. I pull it tight and tuck-in the nozzle at the front. He’ll need laser vision to escape this, I hope. Regardless, I’ll be here to subdue him if he does wriggle free. And just like that, he wakes.
“Hep gasp ugur bubeowwwwe” He pants and babbles, unable to work his mouth. The healthy young man strains his muscles and struggles against the bonds, but they hold. He’s caught. He breathes heavy and spits blood.
“Hey. Are you okay?”
“Owe. Ahh owe yarrurea dead.” He can’t speak very well because his jaw won’t obey, but he can somehow still use his tongue and the roof of his mouth to speak the word dead.
“Drubbin. What would’ve happened if you’d grabbed me? You know, while you were holding my laptop.” He looks at me and doesn’t speak. I kneel beside him, “You would have dropped it and broken it and then you’d hurt me. I’d fight back and you’d win. Then. It’s unthinkable. After. You’d say, sorry. I was drinking..."
“Chupin stasisl grrrul ur wron ni shedhef tufsa pusdah. Yur dead.”
“Are you threatening me?” I can’t make out what he’s saying. “Your jaw must be sooo sore. Don’t try and talk. Tomorrow morning I’m sure someone will find you out here.”
“Mmmm gurbla chupin resef.”
“Hey, I have an idea.” He’s such a total shit bag that my rage returns despite the damage I’ve already done. “Let’s make a video.” Even as I speak the words, I realize I’m making evidence that could someday incriminate me. I’m in enough trouble already, but I cant help myself. I hate him so much. I pull out my Panasonic and set it up on the couch. I point it straight at him and watch him struggle some more in the viewfinder. I watch how he labours when he thinks I can’t see him. God help me if he ever gets free. I set a tight frame and press Record. Then I turn my butt to the lens and pick up the half empty vodka bottle.
“Mmm dead,” he continues to threaten.
“Hey everyone. Let me bring you all up to speed.” I’m talking loud, and to the camera, but only my backside appears in front of the lens. “Your friend Drubbin here tried to rape me.” I speak even louder for the recording “...But I kicked him in the head. He’s sooo mad. Aren’t ya?”
“Mmggmm ur dead”
“He needs a new nickname. We should call him Stolies. He likes Russian vodka.” I hold the label toward the lens. “Just ask him his favourite drink. It’s Stolies.” Then I place the bottle between my legs and unscrew the cap. I make a vodka penis and piss the remaining clear liquid all over his face and chest. Too far? Perhaps, but I’m still so angry at him. The alcohol burns him and he writhes in pain. I jerk it and empty the last drops on his corn rolls. Then I throw it away and turn off my camera.
“Now listen shit bag. If you ever come after me or even look at me the wrong way, this video will destroy you. Your new nickname will be Stolies forever and all your friends will snicker and share this behind your back. No girl will ever trust you.”
I take off my boots and the damp yellow bikini right in front of him. I leisurely stand naked and select new clothes from the bottom of my bag. I make a real show of putting on a clean bra and underwear, new shorts, t-shirt, socks and runners. I glance down to check on his little birdie but it’s hidden away in its hairy nest. I can only imagine what he thinks of me now; he no longer tries to speak.
Clean and refreshed, back in civilian clothes I hang the yellow bikini to dry on the rack and don’t bother saying goodbye to the roped-up rapist on the floor. I shoulder my bag and switch-off the tungsten lamp to leave him in total darkness.
It’s just after midnight and I’m really tired. But after this incident I won’t sleep, and certainly can’t spend the night here anymore. But where now? It’s so warm outside I can probably just curl-up under a bush somewhere. Ugggh. What a dreadful prospect. I circle around in front of the pool and over the wooden mandapam. I don’t want to go in the house; I don’t even want to go near it. I search for a more direct route to the street. Should I try the east side? or the west?
I choose east, and wrong. Flood lights on a motion detector brighten the entire corner of the residential property and I find the egress blocked by an enormous woodpile. Chantwell must have a fireplace or a wood stove inside and this is his winter supply. I cross back under the covered porch and spot a footpath that hugs the far side of the house. That trail likely connects with the driveway out front. I reach for the latch on a tall-person gate which triggers more flood lights.
Just as I open the barrier, I see Chantwell’s black SUV pull into the driveway. Crap. I’m too late.
I quietly close the hinged panel and return to the backyard pool. I figure I might as well make myself comfortable, and so I recline in the only lounge chair and sip the awful tasting beverage that I left in its drink-holder.
The lighting changes as the exterior flood lights turn-off and the first floor of the house brightens. The ground floor becomes illuminate and the rear screen door slides open.
Chantwell steps out onto the porch and looks pissed off. I grow a little frightened at the sight of him. He’s flanked by two more black men, gang enforcers. One is tall and muscular with a face like Denzel Washington and the other’s short and wiry with baggy clothes and tattoos on his neck. Now I’m scared.
“Toni? Whatcha doin? I toll ya ta sleep in da guess housss,” Chantwell points to the wooden cabin on the other side of the pool.
“It’s occupied.” I keep it brief; I must either play this confident-as-hell, or cry like a baby. I opt for strength.
“Wha?” Chantwell nods at his slender assistant to go and investigate. “Where’s da fool boy?” He asks me.
“He’s tied up.”
The bodyguard sees the blood trail in the doorway and steps over it to enter the cabin. He turns-on the overhead fluorescent and gasps at the sight before his eyes. “Boss.” He streams an incomprehensible Caribbean island jive.
Chantwell follows and I hear him whistle and beg some Roman Catholic saint for blessings and forgiveness. Then more Trini-talk filled with pops and whirls is spoken too fast to disentangle.
“Why you do dis?” Chantwell reemerges from the guest house, his eyes on me. He’s on the other side of the pool and he glares at me like I’m an unholy demon witch. The wiry thug follows him outside and picks up Drubbin’s clothes on the grass. I can see movement in the frosted window which means the black youth now stands on his own two feet.
“You left me alone with a predator.” I shrug and sip the awful drink, “...had to defend myself.”
“Did you know? Dirtbag grabbed me. Relax. You’ll like it, that’s what he said to me.” I inspect my fingernails and try to look unfazed. “Just did what I had to.”
“Da chuppid nada ead be tha rude?” Chantwell asks, and before I can answer, Drubbin steps out of the cabin with his right arm around the bodyguard for support.
“Ee cahnt talh,” his helper says, “e’s hur rael bah.” The man supports Drubbin as he bleeds all over him and the patio stones. The injured teen searches the ground for something he’s lost. “Ee caht find his phone,” the wiry gang member with neck tattoos also scans the ground for the missing item.
Chantwell glares at me and waits.
“It’s in the pool,” I tell them. Everyone looks down but its too dark to see the bottom. Drubbin just stares at me over the ripples and I can feel his hatred.
“Get em outa hee,” Chantwell dismisses them with a wave of his arm. “Take em to da hospitah.” He scowls and watches the pair hobble away. “Ga rown.” He motions them to use the side trail and not drip blood through the house.
Drubbing glances at me and I raise my drink towards him. He tries to speak and threaten me again but only coughs blood.
“Da chyl’s be a catty catty,” the remaining bodyguard explains, “born nine mons aftah festivah.”
“Maybee. Buh dat boy be ou gunnin for ja nah doh,” Chantwell says to me.
“He won’t say anything against me.” I watch the invalid exit through the gate at the side of house. “I know his favourite drink.”
“I’ll tell you someday.”
“Toni you an I... We nee to ’ave a chat.” Chantwell turns his back and walks to the far end of the pool. Denzel motions me to rise and follow. I suppress a groan and set down my drink. I shoulder my pack and trail behind the gang leader. We both stand and stare out into the darkness. He breaks the silence and asks, “Toni. Are you Black Lives or All Lives?”
What a strange question to ask me. Why would he ask me that? Because people like Darnella Foster see my videos and think I’m a white supremacist. I stare up at him in stunned silence.
“Be ’onest wit me. I don kire one way or dother,” Chantwell says.
“I’m firmly in the Black Lives Matter column, thank you very much.” I say and then add, “all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.” That’s the textbook perfect response in my opinion, but he’s unfazed by its correctness.
“Sum be say’n ya push da White Powah, and nah...” Chantwell wipes his brow with a silk handkerchief, “I see de way ja beat on da boy. Lake he wuz nah human.”
“Don’t go there,” I recognize this as psychological warfare and once again I can thank Gagner Home for Girls and all Barb’s workshops on master manipulators. He wants me to feel shame.
“Ya broke da boy’s jaw.” Chantwell continues unabated, “such rage in a lil gyul.” He says and frowns at me. Because of Barb’s teachings I can spot his bullshit a mile away. He doesn’t care about Drubbin; he just wants me to feel bad. Thanks to Dr. Drennan, I don’t even get excited about detecting the manipulation. We also practiced staying calm in the face of such outrages, and how to turn the con around. That’s the hardest part. But I’ve already worked out how.
“I could just as easily say you knew he was a predator, and you penned me in here for him.” I continue, ”ya puh da roach before da goose, like Blue says.”
“Hah,” Chantwell laughs, “I like ya Antonya. You’re a rael smar gyul and ya don titivate.” He studies me in silence and then says, ”tis roach before fowl is da propa expreshion, but goose does make krisp. Blue’s good for dat.”
“Has he called you yet? Have you heard from him?” I ask and hope he’ll tell me the truth. I can’t shake the feeling my friend is in real trouble. I can’t stop worrying about him.
“Nuting. Ee’s vanished witou etrace.” Chantwell pulls his own phone from his pocket and runs through the messages. “Toni. My lil burds say Cochutemeh sa coming for ya nah.” He pockets the phone and stares at me. “Es fixin ta make rael trouble for ya.”
“Which means trouble for you I guess.”
“Yah,” Chantwell points to the house, “tomorrow we’ll see what can be done about it.”
The bald old catfish enters the house through the sliding glass door beyond the covered rear deck.
“Ja sleep in ’ere on da couch. It pulls out.”
The sunken living room is styled like a ski chalet around a gorgeous stone fireplace. Chantwell removes the cushions on the sofa and pulls forth a hideaway bed. Right beside me is a pine box from which he retrieves clean sheets and pillows. I’ve no doubt the linens are clean by the smell of the house and the homemaking skills I’ve already observed in Megan. This bed will likely be much softer than the bug-proof billet at Neill Wycik. Thinking about my room makes me ponder the fate of my flatmates. How rough are they sleeping tonight?
Morning songbirds wake me six hours later as the first sunbeams shine through the window. I can’t sleep and so I rise and get dressed. I’m all alone in a gangster’s hideaway and I assume he’s upstairs with his Sugar Girl, an attractive black woman in her mid thirties named Megan.
I slide-open the patio door take a stroll outside on the deck. It’s going to be another hot summer day. The morning air is already warm. Should I just pack-up and get the hell outa here? No. I must wait to find out what happened to Blue, and what Cochutemete will say today at that press briefing.
The black square at the bottom of the pool is Drubbin’s phone. The door to the little cabin is wide open and I peruse last night’s crime scene; there’s blood on the cement floor and on the cords and garden hose. I know the poor bastard will be real sore today, and he’ll probably only eat soft food for weeks.
Do I have any regrets? No. I remember how he grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. In another few minutes he'd have sexually assaulted me. There’d be no justice for me afterwards either, and he knew that. It’s not like I can go to the police. He would have raped me and then apologized. Chantwell wouldn’t care. He’d let him off the hook. So was it wrong for me to take such preventative action? Jurisprudentially speaking, yes. Violence is always wrong. There was probably a better solution...
The yellow bikini is dry and calls to me. I change in the guest house. For whatever reason, once I’m in a bathing suit, I begin to clean-up the cabin. I feel compelled to tidy-up the mess I made last night. I start by scrubbing the dried blood off the floor with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers from a pool cleaning kit.
When everything is ship-shape again I reward myself with a refreshing morning swim. Birds chip and squirrels frolic in the branches of mature trees as I dive and retrieve Drubbin’s phone. It’s totally drowned of course. It’ll never work again, but now it won't pollute the water body or my thoughts. I swim around the kidney for another twenty minutes to collect myself and prepare for the day. What’s Cochutemete going to reveal in his press briefing? Will Chantwell let me go on my way afterwards? Where will I go? And where is Blue?
The hot sun peeks over the treetops and warms my back as I lay on the cedar planks. I fall asleep and wake to the smell of strong coffee, fish frying in olive oil and bread toasting. I’m famished. I change back into my street clothes and reenter the house.
“Good morning,” I slide open the patio door and find Chantwell in a fresh white shirt pouring his first cup. Megan wears a lovely dress and cooks and there are three plates on the table. She prepares a traditional Caribbean breakfast of salt cod fried in oil with onions, tomatoes, and sweet peppers. There are sweetbread cakes with all manner of fruit toppings. Each plate is Instagram-worthy with green sprigs of parsley and orange wedges for colour. I’m starving; I haven’t eaten anything since the cold sausage yesterday and I’ve burnt a lot of calories since then.
“Good morn Toni.” Meghan greets me and nods for me to take a seat at the table.
“Have you heard from Blue?” I ask Chantwell.
“No.” The gang leader scrolls through the messages on his phone. “Toni. Dere’s a brefin todah at fitty-one divishion. Jawall come wit me dis morn and we watch togeder at da office.”
“Why can’t we watch it here?” I ask.
“We’d only get da highlights. I wanna watch da whole ting. Er da live feed.”
“Why can’t we get that here?” I nod at the big screen TV in the sunken living room beside my unmade bed. Megan glares at me and waits for Chantwell to look down at his plate. When he does, she mouths the word no to signal me to stop asking him questions.
“Satellite.” The boss states and continues his breakfast. I ponder Meghan and then Chantwell’s response. Why in the world would a police news conference be available on satellite? And how would he tap into such a feed? He must be lying, or the word is a code for something else.
The bald gang leader cleans the crumbs from his hands and checks his wristwatch and I know breakfast is over. When he wanders off down the hall to use the bathroom, Megan turns to me and whispers like a hostage.
“Don be irksum gyul. I dah no wha’s goin on, an I don kir.” Megan reaches out and clutches my wrist. “But know dis... Ja do nay wanna be ’angin aroun wid ’em. When dis presser ting be over, ja skedaddle.”
“Can you loan me three dollars for a bus?”
“Uhuh.” Megan fetches her purse and finds a five dollar bill. “Jah wanna git on away.”
“Yeah,” I agree, but I’ve nowhere else to go, and no phone to use to call anyone or make arrangements. Who would I call anyway? Chantwell has turned off the WiFi now and so there’s no way to Facebook my friends or gather resources, and Blue is not here to save me. Megan clears dishes and then returns to whisper more advice, her eyes are on the bathroom door at the end of the hall.
“Jawall jus git all packed ’n ready and when ja see a chance you runn. Get on da subway an go.” She sticks out her arm and snaps her fingers. I silently accept the good advice, but something tells me its not going to be that easy to shake Chantwell.