COMDEX, Chapter 13,
“Every Ending Is Just A Beginning,
And Goodbye Is Just Hello.”
“With Everything Changing”
A telephone ringing in the middle of the night is never a harbinger of glad tidings. I’d been asleep for maybe two hours. I was still the closest one to the phone, I should have learned last night.
“Kate, it’s Andy. Jane is on the line, and she’s NOT happy.”
“FARF!!!” I screamed, instantly waking Linda, and Hal who jumped out of bed and headed to get a gun or something. Fortunately for Andy I’d covered the phone first. “upper office?”
“Yeah, you sound more alert tonight.”
“There’s a reason for that you know, I slept all day. I was really tired.”
“Yeah, I know Kate, I’m sorry. Uh, it happened again.”
“What ‘it’ are we talking about? I’m not yet awake.”
“Another prisoner has been killed in the protective custody module.”
“I’m proud of you, that one was subdued.”
“There’s only so much adrenaline in the body, I used up today’s supply sometime last week. I’ll be in the office, five minutes or less.”
I was already in my robe, headed for the door by the time I’d told Linda and Hal, asking them to hurry.
I dialed “0” for the Cendar watch desk. “Good morning, this is Lars.”
“It’s Kate. I need as many forensic people, with their kits, as you can get a hold of. I’ll meet them at the Essex County Jail within an hour. Can you scramble a helicopter and alert Patrick and Sheila?”
“Yes Ma’am, Andy already alerted me to the possibility.”
“Thank you Lars. I really appreciate it.”
“Not at all Kate. You did a fantastic job the other night.”
“Thanks Lars, goodnight,” noblesse oblige.
Linda and Hal came in, closely followed by Andy, and surprise, one of the kitchen staff, Anna with coffee and hot water – and a loaf of sticky cinnamon raisin bread, still warm from the oven!
“Hi Jane. I’m going to kill something.”
“Kill two, one for me. There’s been another murder in the protective custody module.”
“Damnit, I am not Umberto Eco, and I am NOT playing the Name of the Rose with ANYONE.”
“Good girl. Take a big stick. I’ve already told Sam Love if he had the sense of a newborn sandbag he’d better get his happy ass to the jail before you get there.”
“Jane, I’m shutting the protective custody module down. Everything else will be locked down until further notice. Who’s been notified?
“The usual suspects.” I heard a very evil giggle coming from Jane.
“That’s really low Jane.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist. Where are you sending the prisoners?”
“I don’t know, but I’m requesting an emergency hearing before the Federal Court, as independent investigator. I need to clarify who’s doing what to whom.”
“I think that’s wise.”
“Jane, I’m going through that place with the FBI, State, and Cendar evidence teams. Each will backstop the other two. The CO’s who were on both nights are out, as of now, Jim is going to scream like a Banshee.”
“Again, I don’t think there’s anything else you can do.”
“This time it’s going to be ugly. I’m going to take a big hit. My past is going to catch up with me within ten days. I was going to ask you over for lunch so you could hear, and be part of, the discussion.”
“Okay, I owe you at LEAST that much. Just find the son of a bitch. I suggest you take Simon along.”
“Brilliant, if someone’s cooking the logs he’ll find it.”
“Do we know anything about the deceased?”
“Not really, his name is Bartholomew James. White, 36 years old, arrested on suspicion of killing two little girls.”
“Anything else Jane? Do we know Mr. James’ attorney?”
“One hasn’t been appointed, Mr. James hadn’t been arraigned yet.”
“I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
“It seems such a small thing to say when you’ve done so much for me already, thank you Kate.”
“Linda said something this morning that put a lot of things into perspective. I’d complained that I wished we’d never gone on that damn cruise. She replied if we hadn’t Carol Maxwell would likely have been killed, or seriously injured by now. All that’s happened has been worth it if I saved her from that.”
“Kate, please don’t ever change. You may have the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. I’ll see you for lunch.”
“Andy, can you get Simon suited up? Do you think you going with me would be helpful?”
“Kate, I don’t know. I’ll go if you want.”
“Coordinate forensics for me?”
“We better get moving.”
Hal and Linda just looked at me. I started crying. “What have I done? Why is this happening to me?”
The two of them hugged me, and let me just cry for a few minutes. “Do you think I dare ask Tom for a little Ativan or something?”
“Honey, why don’t you wait a little while?” Linda suggested.
“It’s going to be hard enough as it is.” Hal agreed.
I was resigned, “Okay. I need to get dressed.” Linda walked with me, hand in hand, and helped me get ready. It didn’t take long. Slip into a bra, pull on the coverall, pull on my socks and boots on, zipup the coverall and fasten my gun belt. I couldn’t do much more. I walked back to the office and called the Federal AAG I’d been working with.
“Bill Franklin. Oh, Hi Kate.”
“Bill, I need an emergency filing. Me, me, not Massachusetts me, as the independent investigator, I know Jane appointed me, but with this second death I need some sort of whatever making it clear I will act according to my judgment, independent of anything else, and with it an order closing the protective custody module, tentatively as a civil rights violation as per the Ninth Circuit. The second is the most important. I’m going to do it anyway, I’d like to at least know there was something or someone covering my ass. Before I forget, please make it clear I’m taking Leo Sweeney, the attorney for Mr. Maxwell with me, to informally represent the decedent. Mr. Sweeney has accepted an employment offer from Cendar. Both Mr. Sweeney and Carol Maxwell are currently staying with my family. At first, I offered sanctuary. Both impressed the hell out of me. You and the court needed to hear that from me.”
“I was wondering if you were brave enough to do that, the filing I meant, though offering sanctuary from that lunatic was no small thing to do either. Thanks, disclosing that insures transparency.”
“Bill, it’s not courage. I’ve been given an impossible job, and told to do what’s right. I know that’s not a popular legal concept these days, but closing that module will put everyone on notice I’m not fucking around. As I told the Governor, I’m not about to play “The Name of the Rose,” with anyone.”
“Can I quote you?”
“Hell if it will help I’ll land my helicopter in front of the court and say the same thing to a judge or magistrate. I can be there in less than thirty minutes. Just say the word. I’d rather go there than the jail anyway. Oh, and Bill, my past will catch up with me, probably within two weeks. The damned video is raising questions among people who knew me.”
“Kate, I’m sorry. Legally it is my opinion that you’ve satisfied the spirit and the letter of the law. Let me make a call. I’ll call back in five minutes or less.”
“‘k.” I walked back to my room. “Could you two ask Leo if he’ll go with me? I’d like him to informally represent the deceased. Trouble is, I don’t know what room he’ll actually be in. Same with Hiram and Janie. I’d like them to bring one of the portable cleanroom/labs to the jail. That should provide any help if someone’s screwing with the computers.”
“Of course. We’ll try his room first though.”
“I know it’s selfish, and I’d hope they could wait, but I really hope he’s alone tonight.”
Linda kind of giggled, and they nodded.
Bill called back, after almost exactly five minutes. “Kate, I’ll meet you at the jail. You’ll have both your declarative order, and the order shutting the protective custody module. It’s being typed up right now. The judge is the same one who ordered the deposition sealed. Off the record, he thinks it’s damned courageous of you to go forward with this in light of everything. If and when the story comes out, you have a few friends in the Court, and other people, I intend to call. You will NOT stand alone. I promise.”
“Thank you Bill, I really needed to hear that from someone more than my chosen partners.”
“Hal and your wife?”
He chuckled and said, “Tactful Kate. Very tactful.” I’ll see you in a half hour, maybe forty-five minutes.”
Pat and Sheila both were standing post outside the office. “I’m sorry guys. There’s been another murder. I need some obvious muscle.” I know I sounded tired, what I didn’t expect was a hug from both of them. “Thanks, I’ve been running too hard without enough rest. Also, could one of you go down to the armory? I’d like you two, Andy, Simon and myself to be carrying two flash-bangs, and two tear gas. That gives us 10 tear gas grenades plus whatever the jail has. Pick up a dozen gasmasks with attachments, Grab half a dozen nightsticks, half a dozen lamps for the helmets, and you might as well bring Tasers along for those of us carrying weapons.”
“Ted is going to be so pissed in the morning.”
“While you’re shopping at GUNS r US grab a couple of Winchesters and load them with bean bag rounds. Bring a box of bean bags and a box of 00 Buck for each. Can anyone think of anything else in house to make us look intimidating?
Simon came running down the hall, still pulling the gun belt into place. “Thanks Simon. I’m asking Hiram and Janie to drive a recovery truck to the jail. If someone on staff is screwing the systems, you may need it’s resources, along with Hiram and Janie.”
“Very good idea, My Lady, they are both very skilled.”
Linda was blushing furiously, while Hal was chuckling to himself as they returned from their errand.
“He was in his room.” Linda told me.
“Correction, THEY were in his room. He’ll be right down.”
“Carol breezed past us with a very self-satisfied smile, absolutely didn’t care if we knew. She asked me to give you a kiss for her,” so Linda did.
“Hiram and Janie are getting dressed, they should be here in fifteen minutes.”
It was only a few minutes till Leo showed up. “Okay. EVERYONE. ANNOUNCEMENT! I love Carol, Carol loves me, and we’d like to get married as soon as we can. Thank you Kate.” He started to cry, “Thank you very, very much.” Somehow I found myself holding him, though wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but it was right.
Maybe Pastor Johnson could take care of the marrying part of things. Do it New Year’s Eve and get the tax break for this year.
Tonight it was good Andy led the way. I grabbed my reefer jacket, it would be warm enough in the helicopter. It was three-oh-five when the helicopter lifted off. When we had steadied down for the short flight, I tried to explain the situation.
“By the time we arrive and enter the jail two emergency rulings from the Boston Federal court will be waiting for me. The first orders my participation and my use of resources, I hope, more or less as an independent counsel. This is to separate the Governor from me, and to make it clear to some of the more challenging personalities that though I don’t want it, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
“The second order shuts down the protective custody module, right now, on civil rights violations. I’m hoping a Federal Marshall comes with the orders. It would make things less challenging.”
“The situation is this. At some time before 0200 a prisoner, not yet arraigned, was found murdered. His name was Bartholomew James. He was a white male 36 year old transient arrested on the suspicion of sexual assault and murder of two little girls. I believe all of you know the life expectancy of a child abuser, except in the protective custody unit is measured in minutes. It is critical to remember this, no matter how distasteful, he was not convicted of a crime and must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Leo is being asked to represent the interests of Mr. James pro tempore and probably pro bono though Cendar will take care of that until next of kin is located. I do not know who his next of kin is, that is one of the glaring information errors.”
“I’ve asked Simon along, because I want to rule out, if possible, anyone screwing with the computer logs. I hope he can also conduct an information trail audit of everyone in the PC module, and perhaps the entire facility.”
“I’ve asked Andy to supervise the forensic teams, as in plural, as in multiple from the State Police, the FBI, and Cendar. They will be backstopping each other. It’s terribly clumsy, but it will rule out anyone screwing with the evidence.”
“The entire inmate population and staff are in lockdown and will remain that way. Those CO’s who worked last night, and tonight, who cannot account for their whereabouts with absolute certainty, will be going out on paid administrative leave. Expect Sheriff Love to be less than pleased with me.”
“If I had enough time, I’d put pairs of armed officers throughout the facility, TAC suits, Gold face shields, Tear Gas Grenades and all. I will absolutely make it clear that any further deaths will result in summary layoffs. Expect the CO’s union to be less than pleased with me.”
“I think you all know this hard ass style is repugnant to me. If you don’t, talk to Andy. Once we land, I will repeat what happened last night, in spades. Expect me to seem and act like a stone cold bitch who’s suffering from PMS, with the flu, and with a migraine headache who’s just been dumped by her longtime boyfriend, and her best friend, on her birthday. Tonight I will take no crap from anyone. They get one warning, then I’ll slap them in handcuffs and make them wait, in handcuffs, in the visitor’s waiting area until I have the time to play piss-ant games. If it becomes necessary I will have them transported to the Federal Lockup. Obviously, that is the absolute last thing I want to do.”
“Perhaps everyone will play nice. Perhaps someone will step forward and confess. Perhaps the tooth fairy will visit the helicopter while we are gone. I am hoping for the best, and planning for the worse.”
“I am relying on you. If any one of you thinks I’ve lost my mind or am being unreasonably unreasonable, speak to Sheila. Sheila, I’m sorry to ask you but you’re the only other woman. If someone comes to you or you think it’s warranted, please interrupt and take me to the little girl’s room and read me the riot act. It’s no secret, you all know it. I’m tired. I haven’t had enough rest, and I’ve been running hard the last few weeks. You can expect Ted to knock my ass out for it when we get home.”
“This couldn’t come at a worse time for Hal, Linda, and I. The pastor of the Church Linda and I attended, with Tim and Lisa in California is here. He has recognized me. He is not the problem. The problem is the video-tape of the Birmingham operation. I’ve been too successful. There are questions being asked that have no acceptable answers.”
“Tentatively, and this information is only four hours old. Linda, Hal, and I are planning to acknowledge the truth. I have a competent legal opinion from a Federal Court officer, that none of us have done anything wrong. In fact, we have quote fulfilled and exceeded the spirit and the letter of the law, end quote. We had, prior to 0200 begun planning for a meeting in the next 72 hours with you, my family, and some others. Since 0200 this has become problematic.”
“If you do not realize it; let me make it very clear. You are my most trusted staff. There are some others, but each of you has earned that position. Hal, Linda, and most especially I respect and love each of you. If you ever think you’re not making enough money, talk to me. I know the boss. If you ever need anything, talk to me. Like I said, I know the boss. If you ever just need someone to talk to, come see me, no one will dare ask why. Does everyone have State Police flashes? Let’s get them on.”
Switching intercom circuits I asked the pilot how soon we would arrive. Less than five minutes was the answer. Not nearly long enough for a nap. “Okay troops the LZ is hot and we’ll be there in less than five. Damn, okay, who forgot to bring two Ma Dueces?” That got a little laugh, “would someone remind me to have a cd player installed, one with BIG speakers. I’d like whoever to be a bit frightened even before we got there. Maybe “Flight of the Valkyries,” or a little “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” or “Knights in White Satin” playing in the background would be appropriate about now.”
“Kate, you’re weird.”
“Thank you Andy Honey.”
“Andy Honey? Do I want to know?”
“Probably not. Hey you didn’t bring any of my babble juice along did you? It hits hard and fast. I figure we’d have just enough time to jab ‘em and ask if they killed one of the inmates.” I began my own maniacal laugh. “Darn, too bad it’s illegal.”
I’m not old enough to remember this stuff.
Bill delivered. One hurdle down. I was now a special investigator for the US Federal Court, Boston. We had 8 Cendar forensics technicians waiting for us, all with Tyvek suits for all who would need them. The FBI sent three two man teams, and the State Police sent three forensic technicians. We all went through the doors, guns and all. I sent one Cendar team to photograph cars and license place in the parking lots. Public, Lock-up, staff. If in doubt, take a picture. Also, I instructed them to take a photograph of everyone who left the facility.
There was a minor delay at the door. It seems they weren’t supposed to let weapons in. Andy proceeded to place C-4 strips all around the door. Seeing the virtue of not arguing with a tactical team armed with who knows what, the door was opened.
I entered the facility like some wrathful Valkyrie. People got out of my way. That Sheila and Patrick were obviously armed didn’t matter. The look on their face was priceless. I looked happy in comparison. We entered the conference room. Sheriff Love’s face drained of all color as Tyvek suited technician after technician kept coming in, along with all the -others.
“Lieutenant Miller, is there a room the forensics people can use.” I asked, without preamble.
He looked at the Sheriff, who nodded, almost unperceptively, and it wasn’t long before the room was less crowded, but no less intimidated. Sheila and Patrick Stood behind and to either side of me. Their purpose clear.
I looked around the room, everyone from last night was there, Bill had an assistant, Marcy Favors, as did the assistant DA. “Agent Tatro how many agents can you shake loose to do interviews, and how soon can they be here?”
“Ma’am, I’ve six agents that can be here in less than an hour.”
“Please make whatever calls you need to make that happen.”
“Gentlemen, this facility has a problem. It is remotely possible the two homicides are a statistical anomaly. I do not consider that likely. I thought I’d made it clear last night I was not happy. You can’t even fathom how upset I was to get a call, in my bedroom, from the Governor an hour or so ago. I’ll tell you all right now. I now control this facility. If necessary I’ll have Federal Marshall’s in here. I’ve already asked for and received a declaratory judgment from the Federal Court clarifying my status. You are each being provided with a copy. Sheriff Love, you can’t even begin to imagine how much I disliked having a second order. As of 0300 the protective custody module in this facility is shut down, you are each receiving a copy of that order as well. Please make arrangements to move the residents to another facility. Now. We will wait for you.”
“Ma’am, you can’t do that. It’s unreasonable to expect me to comply.”
“Sheriff, excuse me. I’ll give you a pass on this one. You have one chance to get this right. You have exactly two options. The first is to comply with the Federal Court order. The second is to be taken immediately into custody and I will then find someone else who can do your duty. The first order you were given makes it clear you will obey my orders, or seek redress in the Federal Court at 0800 Monday. Between now and then I would reluctantly have you detained in the Federal lockup facility. Please make your choice. Either way those prisoners are being moved.”
“But, you can’t…”
“Patrick, please take the Sheriff into custody.”
“Wait! Okay, but this is not settled!”
“Sheriff, it is settled. One way or the other. You have now used your only second chance. Choose.”
“Okay. But it will be challenged on Monday!”
“Sheriff you will not find any official in the Commonwealth willing to back you on this. This action has already been explained to, and reluctantly agreed to by the Governor. Please go ahead and make your calls. You may use the phone in this room, or your cell phone.”
“Lieutenant, I don’t see the CO’s from the PC module. Where are they?”
“Ma’am the Sheriff didn’t think that step was warranted.”
“Lieutenant, see to it immediately. Please have them wait here. When you finish that, please take my IT specialist, Simon Gordon, and provide supervisory access to your data equipment. I’ll have two other IT people here within the hour. See that they have access. All staff are to immediately step away from, and be locked out of, the computer system. Simon, please accompany the Lieutenant, and start your audit. If feasible, please provide read only access to staff, and Simon, one of the forensics teams is at your disposal, as well as Hiram and Janie when they get here. Ask Captain Jeeves to detail three men to you.”
“We will wait while the Sheriff makes his calls.”
Sheriff Love, at this point, was shaking, or trembling noticeably. It could have been anger, but then again, it might have been fear. It took about an hour for him to find enough spaces. “Major, I’ve been able to place all 34 detainees. I’m sorry, but they are going to be scattered all over hell and half of Georgia. The most I could place in any one place was 9, which will be located at the Lawrence facility. I’ve ordered the secure bus, and we will begin moving inmates and detainees within the next hour.”
“Sheriff, can you tell us what is known about this latest homicide? What do we know about the deceased?”
“Ma’am the deceased was named Bartholomew James, 36 years old. White, 5’10” tall, brown hair, green eyes, medium build. He was arrested on suspicion of homicide of two little girls, 3, and 6 years old at 1415. According to the officer’s reports the detainee was caught by a crowd, shortly after the little girls were murdered. He was banged up by the crowd pretty badly. Treated for assorted cuts and contusions at Massachusetts General, and detained here at 1630.
“Do you have a next of kin?”
“Ma’am, I do not.”
“Does he have a rap sheet?”
“Yes Ma’am. Loitering, panhandling, urinating in public, that kind of thing.”
“Thank you Sheriff.
“I’ve asked Leo Sweeney to sit in on this meeting, the deceased had not yet been arraigned, and according to the information I have, he has or had no attorney. I note John Maxwell had not been arraigned. I also note both Mr. Maxwell and Mr. James were both arrested on charges relating to Assault, Battery and rape and attempted murder. The probability of any two of those facts is low. Taken together, the probability is infinitesimal. These kinds of patterns do not generally occur naturally. I would invite you to read “Statistical Metrics on Inmate Populations” by Kathryn Stevens. American Journal of Metrics in Criminal Justice, volume nineteen, 1995, issue 1. Mr. Sweeney will represent both Mr. Maxwell and Mr. James, at least until Mr. James’ family has been found and has an opportunity to arrange otherwise.”
(NOTE TO MY READERS: From the truth is stranger than you can believe file. The article and journal referenced is my THIRD choice. The first two choices turned out to be actual scholarly journals. The first one also agreed in year of publication, volume number, and issue number. No, I’ve never looked at either “real” journal before in my life. The issue also actually existed for the first. Thankfully the article itself wasn’t there. Duh.)
“You need to know, Mr. Sweeney has agreed to come to work for Cendar Corporation. I see no conflict of interest. My business, family, and I personally all operate transparently. We have already notified the Federal Court in Boston of this fact. Mr. Sweeney, the Commonwealth, and Cendar Corporation all wish to see justice done, and the perpetrator brought to justice. As always, if you have an issue with my performance or methods you are welcome to seek redress in the Federal Courts.”
“Now ladies and gentlemen, let me explain what is going to happen. My Lieutenant, Simon Gordon (well he WAS a vice-president of Cendar) has begun an audit of all records systems used in this facility. He WILL find, document, and eventually if needed, testify to the result of that audit. He is a genius in a company of geniuses. He will be joined by two more of my employees, both will soon be certified in Information Systems forensics.”
“Next. All correctional officers in this facility, and every PC detainee will be questioned by the FBI, before they leave this morning.”
“Ma’am you can’t, I don’t have enough allocated money for salaries.”
“Sheriff, I thought we’d been over this once. I’m truly sorry, but you’ll have to absorb the overtime costs somewhere. The interviews will be reviewed by the FBI, a team of forensic investigator’s, and when warranted, by myself or others I ask. They will also be shared, as appropriate in my judgment, with you. I know this is an onerous burden. There’s nothing to be done about it. Two high profile homicides, in two days, is going to unleash a fire storm on this facility.”
Sheriff Love has found room and will transport the current detainees this morning. Sheriff, 34 seems like a lot of inmates. How many cells does the PC module have?”
“Ma’am, we have 12 cells in that module.”
“Sheriff, how many detainees do you have in each cell? AND what is their stated maximum capacity?”
“Ma’am, that’s one of the problems we have. That module is rated for twenty-four prisoners. We have more detainees than we are technically allowed. Unfortunately the County has not seen its way clear to construct additional facilities.”
“So you are telling us you have 50% more detainees than legally allowed? Does this apply only to the PC module, or the entire facility?”
It was no longer an uncertainty, he was now frightened. “Yes Ma’am we have more detainees than allowed in that module. The conditions are not quite that bad in the general population, but even there we have nearly four people for every three beds.”
“Excuse me Ma’am, can I ask a question?” This from Bill, the assistant AG from the Federal Court. “Sheriff, do you realize how serious this problem is? From a Constitutional point of view, this facility is in gross violation of the Civil Rights of every detainee in this place!”
“Yes sir, I am aware of that. I’ve tried. No one wants to listen. We are shoehorning detainees wherever we can.” Sheriff Love complained to the group.
“Sheriff Love. Thank you for being forthright. As soon as the PC Module is cleared, you can, for the very short term, use the additional 12 cells to help you meet the law’s requirement. Still, that’s a problem that is going to be an issue, especially in light of these homicides. The news media is going to be all over this. We will address it, but that is not the problem we have in hand. Do any of you have thoughts about these homicides? Surely I’m not the only one thinking at 0400 hours in the morning.”
“Ma’am, what kinds of questions do you want us to be asking?”
“Good question. For all prisoners and staff. What was their: location, general movements. Relationships or grievances with Commonwealth or Federal agencies or toward me or my company or others involved in this investigation. General attitudes toward the PC detainees. Thoughts on detainees/prisoners/CO’s. Attitudes toward rape, crimes against women or children, sexual abuse, and how those attitudes are translated into action.”
“Attitudes toward Protective Custody detainees?” This from the Assistant District Attorney.
“Ma’am, against you?” Thank you Bill!
“Absolutely. I’m supposed to be “fair-minded.” How would it look if that question wasn’t raised? It should probably include all of you or the entities you represent.”
Several around the table began to nod. Even Sheriff Love thought investigating me was a good idea.
“Remember, I’m just back from a very high profile operation. The target of which is lying on a slab in the morgue. I did NOT expect it to be a news story. I was blind-sided by it.”
“Can we identify others who might have grievances?”
“Absolutely. All officers and detainees should be closely scrutinized for ANY motive that could lead to this Charlie Foxtrot. I have to stress, again, NO ONE, or GROUP is at this time a suspect.”
“Ma’am, what’s a Charlie Foxtrot?” Marcy Favors asked.
I couldn’t help it, I blushed. “I apologize. I sometimes forget I’m not with one of my teams in talking about this kind of mess. The term is military slang for a Cluster-Fuck. It’s a totally screwed up situation. Kind of the same as SNAFU, Situation Normal All F’d Up. It’s when something has become a debacle, especially when it’s organizational. It just kind of slipped out.” There were a few chuckles around the table. My infallibility took a hit, but I’m supposed to be “fair Minded.” Geez, this REALLY sucks!
Marcy got really flustered and gave me this wan “sorry I got you into this” kind of look on her face. Sheila and Patrick were snickering behind me. I gave serious thought to glaring at them, for at least three whole seconds. I guess it was kind of funny though.
“If there’s the slightest irregularity, the FBI should start looking into financial records. This isn’t anything new to the Correctional Officers. I know the Sheriff’s office, in their hiring policies state in-depth research, backgrounds, drug use, etc. are all components of the application process.”
“Ma’am,” the Union’s lawyer interrupted, “I’m afraid we will have to challenge the process, and any evidence that results.”
“Mr. Conwell, if you wish to do so, please get together with Bill Franklin, the Federal AAG assigned to this case, and schedule arguments before the Federal Court for Monday Morning. If you REALLY have an objection, you can try to file a motion for an emergency hearing. In this particular case, because it’s going to be a media circus and I do believe it will be a media circus starting later today, any motion that seems to try to block, or cover-up any part of this investigation will result in significant public backlash. Only you and your clients can determine the advisability of such an action. I certainly will not suggest or impede it, but if you are considering it, do it as soon as possible.”
“Am I clear?”
“Yes Ma’am, thank you. I expected you to jump down my throat.”
“Sir, if you wish to court adverse publicity for your clients, who am I to stand in your way?” I gave him a half-smile. “From my own experience with Cendar, I’ve found if you treat your employees the way you would want to be treated, and pay a fair wage, most labor issues evaporate like dew in the morning sun.”
“Cendar has an excellent reputation,” he said, reluctantly and ruefully, “otherwise someone would be trying to unionize your company.”
“There you go, dew in the morning sun!” That was a point everyone could appreciate and laugh about.
“Any more questions or suggestions? Agent Tatro, does that give you a sense of what we’re looking for?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Then I’m going to see who knows what, right now, and get reports this afternoon. Tentatively, I will be scheduling a news conference at 1600 hours today and throughout the week. You are all invited to attend. I expect to do it from my home,” laughing I continued, “Uh, my daughters have a long planned social event going on, so you can expect to see some of my staff, and young ladies, dressed in medieval costumes, acting as though this is the 16th century.”
“As I did last night, and will do every time we meet. Does anyone have any complaints, issues, or other business we need to address at this time?”
No one brought anything up. I think they were too intimidated. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please, I still plan our next meeting for Monday, 1300 hours. We are adjourned.”
“Lieutenant Miller, would you guide Patrick, Sheila and me, to where Simon is?”
Like most jails I’ve been in, this one was maze of rabbit warrens, carving the building up into different areas, all locked off from any connecting passages. Then there’s usually a central office or administration center, often associated with the visitor and visitation area. Essex was no different. The only distinctive character was its age. It felt old. Of course it connected to a rich history and tradition, which colored my impression. There’s been a constant connection back to the 1600’s. At one time it housed those accused of witchcraft, British spies, Draft dodgers of the Civil War, and on to the draft dodgers of the Vietnam War. That unbroken heritage permeated the place. Physically the jail wasn’t particularly old, dating back to the sixties. Still…
“Lieutenant Gordon, how are your tests going?”
“Bloody ‘ell. Lieutenant My Lady? Err… Actually, so far I’ve found no exploits, I did have to kick a few people off at the beginning. How long do I have here?”
“How long do you need?”
“Not more than twenty to thirty hours. So, not too long. The warders didn’t like going to paper, they were bloody angry till I told them the alternative. One said he’d wait until I was done. He wasn’t very happy when I told him great! He’d have plenty of overtime. I’m glad Janie and Hiram are here. Hiram’s documenting the latest patches on the software and the OS. I imagine with the three of us we’ll just keep going. I’ll be able to let people into the system on a read-only basis in another two, maybe three hours. The biggest problem is there’s been no upgrades, no security changes in at least five, probably more like ten years. They’re running an old ATT System Five OS. Fundamentally sound, but very wonky, very kludgey. Boss, they’ve all been logging in as admin. It may be a function of their software – again unpatched since forever. I don’t even know if the company is still in business. We may have to do some serious work, looking at the equipment, it’s probably a giveaway. I would suggest keeping an accurate billing log, then issue a proforma bill, discounted to $0.00 ‘cause there’s no way they’re going to be able to pay – if the equipment is any indicator. If I’m still here Monday, or if you want to have someone come in, I could use a db Admin, and someone to do some research for me, maybe burn some disks. Oh, the other thing? No backups. Well, actually there is, but it’s five plus years old, so I could use a hardware guy to see about some hard drives, maybe one with SysFive patched and upgraded, then run that in tandem, copy applications, then reboot and cross our fingers. This thing is a disaster waiting to happen.”
“You have a full lab sitting in the parking lot. Ask the forensics people for volunteers. Janie can do the db work, and Hiram has some impressive skills.
“Milady that would be perfect. Those two are top notch.”
“Can you take me to the forensics’ team?”
Another trip through the maze. Part of the reason a jail is constructed this way is it can confuse the prisoners. If they don’t know how to move about, it’s harder for them to break out.
“Andy, how are things going?”
“Charlie Foxtrot. Someone “broke” the tape machine for the PC module. We’ll be looking for legible fingerprints on file for staff in a bit. Right now, it looks like someone broke the machine, then wiped every surface in the PC module control room. No way it’s an accident.”
“How long do you think you’ll be?”
“At this rate? No more than eight to ten hours. Why don’t you head on home? Between Simon and me we’ve got this wired. I’d call those three CO’s from last night back in to work. Unless we’ve a case of conspiracy, it looks like they’re innocent.”
“How many from last night were on tonight?”
“All together? 11 men, two women.”
“Ouch. Well I guess there’s no help for it. I’ll give the Sheriff the good news. I’d suggest making sure the prisoners to be transferred have their turn with the FBI first. That way we can give him some relief. I’ve suggested short term, he use the 12 cells in the PC Mod for overflow from the general population. I’ll touch base with Agent Tatro, talk to the Sheriff and head on home. Andy, thanks.”
“Don’t worry, we will sort things out. I may call for some help, letting the guys here go home a bit later.”
“You know the phone numbers. Call me if you need me, okay?”
“I will Kate.”
“I’m going to try to get some rest, then go through the FBI material early afternoon.”
“Go, get some sleep. Kate, give Hermione a call? She’ll be up, she always is when I’m working, but don’t stress on it. It’s just how we do things.”
“Lieutenant, ready to take us back to where we started?”
Agent Tatro was assigning his investigators to the different groups when I got back to the conference room. He had taken his notes from the meeting and turned those into seventeen questions to ask prisoners and staff. He was agreeable to starting the next round of interviews with the prisoners being transferred. He was less happy with the news from Andy and Simon.
No one could find the Sheriff. He hadn’t signed out, but didn’t seem to be in the jail complex. Lieutenant Miller told me it wasn’t unusual. I gave the Lieutenant the names of the eleven officer’s that would need to be replaced before their next scheduled work shift. He was not pleased. He took scant comfort when I told him the three from the previous night could return to work, but promised to do what had to be done. I told him to call me if there was another emergency.
Collecting Leo, Sheila, Patrick and I signed out, and headed for the helicopter. Twenty minutes later we were home.
I was tired and I hurt. Vikki blanched when we walked into the kitchen.
“Kate, what happened?”
“It happened again last night, well early this morning. Vikki, can I get a really unhealthy breakfast? I’d love a cheddar grilled onion omelet, bacon or sausage, potatoes, and English muffin or biscuit? And some ketchup. I expect everyone else is hungry too, oh, a glass of OJ and a glass of Milk? I need to sit down before I fall down.”
I stumbled on into the Atrium and sat at “my” breakfast nook. Leo and I just sat there. I read the comics, Leo read “Parade.” “Leo, I’m sorry I dragged you out of bed, especially since you weren’t alone.”
“Kate, it could have been important. It was the right thing to do. Thank you for clarifying my status. I was going to mention it to you tomorrow. If you want me, I’ll be happy to relocate. Especially since my better four-fifths will be here.”
“Kate, Carol and I have been in love since Junior High. It just worked out I loved Pam more. That’s not the best way to put it, since I have loved both of them absolutely. Now I’ll have a family. I’ve always wanted children, and Carol’s kids have been like my own since they were born. So we both get to start-over again.”
“I had a thought when you professed undying love. We have a pastor right here. We have Annie and her Amazing Technicolor sewing machine, and a couple hours’ worth of work will produce the most amazing wedding dress. I’ll even spring for a tuxedo.”
It was fun watching him. “You know what else Leo? I’ll bet Annie would be tickled pink to measure the girls and have bride’s maids’ dresses” So, assuming I can get some rest tonight you could be married this evening, Monday, or Tuesday.”
“Leo, you won’t be “starting-over.” It will be, I don’t know, picking up where you might have left off? I hope you know Carol’s going to need to see a psychologist for a while. You don’t survive what she has without scars. I’m so very glad you are here for her. She’s special and deserves some happiness.”
“So are you Kate, and so do you.”
“Here you go Kate,” Vikki brought out our breakfast, along with honey, butter, and black raspberry jam, which was my favorite, even if I didn’t let myself have it very often.
“Thank you Vikki, uh, can I ask a question? When do you sleep?”
Vikki smiled at me, “Normally at night.”
I walked into that one. “No, I mean you’re always here when I go into the kitchen, well not always, but pretty much always.”
“You ARE tired. Actually, I try to be here when we have guests, but February and March I’ll take several weeks of comp time off. It works out pretty well for us. George likes it this way. There’s not much happening here, nor does George have much going on then. We can usually take trips to several different places.”
“If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”
“That one’s easy. Paris. Cordon-Bleu has a pastry course I’ve wanted to go to for several years.”
“Isn’t that too much like work?”
Vikki just laughed. “Not really. You get to eat everything you make! It would be nice to be in a kitchen without any responsibility other than learning.”
“Vikki? Will you do me a great big favor?”
“Of course I will Kate, you know that.”
“I suppose I do. Monday morning, would you call and make reservations for that course? It’s my treat. I’ve needed to talk to you about something, and just never seem to get a chance. I really would like to do something nice for you though. Will you be here this evening?”
“Kate, you don’t have to do that. And yes, I will be here.”
“You are right, I don’t have to do that. But I want to. Regardless of how things go when we talk I want you to do that for me. Okay?”
“Thank you Kate. Thank you very much.”
Ted and Meri came around the corner, following the sound of our voices. “Kate, what the hell are you doing in uniform? Patrick and Sheila were in the kitchen eating. They mentioned you’ve been up all night. Again.”
“Do you remember Friday/Saturday night? We had another murder.”
“Kate, when you finish eating, you are going with me downstairs. You are getting hooked up to the monitors, then you are going to sleep.”
“Ted, I have things I have to do.”
“Fine, you can do them after eight to ten hours uninterrupted sleep. You KNOW Linda and Hal will agree with me. Jane, or whoever will just have to do without you for a few extra hours.”
“I don’t want to fight Ted. If Linda and Hal agree I’ll do what you want.”
“What are we agreeing to?” Linda asked, as usual she was beautiful this morning. Ack! Sunday! Everyone will be down here soon!
Linda reached down to snag half my biscuit.
“Hey, that’s mine!”
“I’ll get you another Honey. So Ted, what??”
“I want her downstairs, hooked up, and knocked out for eight to ten hours. She’s going to kill herself this way. She’s only been out of bed for just over a week. Apparently she doesn’t listen.”
“Why THANK YOU Doctor Honey! That’s a GREAT idea!” Linda said with a triumphant smile. I’ll have Hal call Jane and explain.”
Hal was ready to face the day, dressed for church. He leaned over and kissed me. “I’m glad you’re home sweetheart, you need to sleep.”
“Sheesh, it’s a conspiracy.”
“Hal, Doctor Honey wants her downstairs on the monitors for eight to ten hours. I said you’d call and explain to Jane. Then Doctor Honey reminded everyone she’s only been up and around for eight (?) days.”
“Would you stop calling him Doctor Honey, Honey?” I asked.
“But I didn’t call him Doctor Honey Honey. I just called him Doctor Honey. AND, if I remember correctly YOU were the one who first called him Doctor Honey.”
“I’m giving up right now. Honey, would you get me a nighty, robe, slippers and my toothbrush? You don’t need to get me a biscuit, I think I’m full.”
I gave a huge theatrical sigh. “Well, if I’ve got to get knocked out, I’m glad you’re doing it Doctor Honey. Hey! Could someone get me that nice warm electric blanket I had last week?”
“Hal Honey, could you call Andy Honey and Simon Honey. The jail has problems. Obviously. Only what no one knew is they haven’t had a backup, nor has the system been patched in forever. Five to ten years forever. Simon Honey has some specific things he needs. One is the patch sets to ATT Sys Five for the last ten years. And maybe an intern to run around for Simon Honey. Could you also call Hermione Honeyette and tell her Andy Honey is still at the jail, probably for another eight to ten hours?”
“Oh Look! Linda Honeyette is here with my very own nighty and slippers. Come on Doctor Honey, or does Meri Honeyette want breakfast first?” Leo was just laughing hysterically at my antics.
“Oops, I guess I’m going now. Could someonehoney stick their head in and tell Patrick Honey and Sheila Honeyette where I’m being dragged off to? I’ll leave my gun and belt by the door. Night-night EverybodyHoney!”
“Kate, has anyone told you you’re crazy?” Leo asked as I was being dragged away.
“Frequently Leo Honey. Byeee,” I said, waving as I got on the elevator.
As soon as the doors to the elevator closed Meri and I started laughing. “Thank you guys. Actually I was going to ask for something for pain. My shoulder/collar bone really hurts. I really am too tired, and I’m glad you didn’t yell at me too much.”
“Kate, you need to learn to say no.”
“I really can’t argue with you. I’ve done too much, too soon. If anybody ever deserved it, John Maxwell did. But, politically and legally, I’m the best choice for investigating the murders. Another “detainee” who had not yet been arraigned, just like John, was killed. This guy had killed two little girls. Well, was accused anyway. Apparently, this time the man was all by himself in the world. Someone has to speak for the dead.”
“Kate that may be. Almost certainly is, but you can’t save the world.”
“I know Tom, turn your back for a second.”
“You’re joking, right?” Meri poked him in the ribs, “Ouch! Okay, okay.”
“Excuuuse me. I’m changing here!” It would be more effective if I wasn’t giggling around my words.
“Jeez, picky, picky women.” Ted turned around, and I quickly slipped out of my coverall and bra, then pulled the nightgown over my head and stepped into my fuzzy slippers. “Can I go across the hall and pee first? Or are you going to commit indignities against my body?”
“Go! Brush your teeth and get back here. Then I’ll commit indignities.”
So I did.
“Meri, what time is it?”
“It’s just after eight.”
“How did it get to be eight o’clock?”
“One second at a time. One second at a time. You need to get to bed.”
Meri stuck her tongue out at him, “Come on Kate, I’ll help you.”
I did as I was told. I climbed into bed. Meri hooked me up to the monitors, took one look at Tom who nodded, and expertly stuck me and inserted an IV.
“Thank you Meri, I’m sorry to be so much trouble.”
“You can be so exasperating. Tom and I are assigned to you, full-time. You ask us to do something twice a week and you think it’s trouble? Hon, this is like a vacation. Besides, you are family. You have been for quite a while.”
Meri injected something through the IV, and the pain faded as a warm sensation started in my chest and spread throughout my body.
“Stick your tongue out.” Tom said, so I did.
I’m guessing it was Ambien, I’d just taken it, and snuggled into bed. Actually, it was a relief being ordered to bed. Jane would never have asked if there was any other choice, but it was nice to just relax, and go to sleep knowing no one would wake me.
That’s where things were ten minutes later when Hal came running in. “Stop, I’ve got to talk to her.”
“Hal, she’s about asleep with a pain med and Ambien.”
“Damn, they just found the Sheriff, dead.”
I can remember thinking, “that’s nice.” Then I realized what he’d said and tried to lift my head. Too late.
“Nite Nite,” I mumbled.
Steven’s Hall, December 29, 2001, 1730 Hours.
“Kate, Honey, can you wake up?”
“Honey, you’ve been asleep for almost ten hours. You’ve GOT to get UP.”
“Oh, Hi Lin. What time is it?”
“Hon it’s almost six O’clock.”
“Hey, why am I in here?”
“Tom got all pissy after you were up again all night.”
“But you just said it was six O’clock?”
“Actually, five-thirty P.M.”
“Oh damn. Why do I have an IV?” I started panicking. “Did I do something, am I all right?”
“Yes silly, he just decided if you had been up all night, for the second time, you needed to be ordered to bed. He even told Jane that. Actually, he said a lot more than that to Jane, he was NOT happy with her. Tom even ordered Sheila and Patrick to keep everyone, including Hal and me, out of here; Doctor’s Orders.”
Meri disconnected me from everything, and I sat up. “Okay, what’s happening?”
“Well, the first crisis…”
“This isn’t good is it? First crisis?”
“No, it’s not good. Sheriff Love is dead.”
“I’ve got to get dressed.”
“You need to hear the rest.”
I slumped back on the bed, “And the rest?”
“We had plenty of time to cancel the News Conference at four. Next, you are NOT going to believe what the idiots in the State House have done. They are upset. Actually closer to apoplexic. The leadership feels the problems in Essex are systemic throughout the various counties. Without consulting with you, Jane, or anyone in Cendar, they’ve basically decided to give you a blank check. You have to fix all the jails, or at least audit and certify they are up to date.”
“Why me? Supervise the investigation I can understand. But damn, that’s a lot of work.”
“I’ve heard all about it. Honey, Hal will meet you upstairs to tell you the rest.”
“That’s not enough?”
“If that was all I’d have asked Tom to keep you down here till the morning.”
I got up, Lin and I went upstairs to our bedroom. After a quick shower, I threw on clothes, the super Christmas Yuletide hostess red jumper over green sweater, and white tights. Lin was there, changing, and helping me get dressed.
“Dinner was pushed back till seven tonight. The girl’s, all seventeen of them, oh, by the way we’ll be getting an expansion on the barn, we now have eighteen horses. Jose’s been offered much more money, and we need to hire two stable hands to help him.”
“Where are the other six horses going to be at?”
“Would you believe there’s six temporary stalls where some of the cars were parked?”
“At this point, I’d believe anything.”
“Well Miss Alice, you look about as good as you’re going to get tonight. Oh, the reason dinner was pushed back is Lisa, all sixteen other girls, and your temporary female horsemanship employee have all been riding all day, they need to finish putting the horses away. They’ll be getting showered about now, so the earliest we could all eat is seven. Jane will meet with you and Hal as soon as you get to the upstairs office.”
“Lin, do YOU have ANY more little details you’ve forgotten to mention? If I’d known Jane was waiting I’d have hurried more.”
“That’s why I didn’t tell you.”
I slammed a pair of shorty boots on and rushed out the bedroom door. Patrick apparently was on duty, but some guy in a dark suit was standing on the other side of the doorway. There was another guy down the hall, where the two hallways came together.
“Who’s the guys in the suits? Jane, I’m sorry. They made me go to sleep.”
“Relax Kate. You’re not in trouble. Probably the only one who is definitely NOT in trouble. Actually, maybe you are. Depends how you define trouble. One thing you can relax about. One of the CO’s sent home this morning turned rabbit. He fit all of your criteria. Worked both days and was seen in and out of the PC Mod. Left his wife and two kids. There’s a warrant for his arrest.”
“Okay, that means I can wait before I panic. So, who’s the suits?”
“Kate, Cendar’s going to be tasked with remediating all the jails throughout the Commonwealth.” Hal began. “It’s a cost plus 5% contract, sort of between you, Cendar, and the Commonwealth.
“What do you mean “me,” Cendar, and the commonwealth?”
“Because you my dear are on an indefinite leave of absence. Linda and Annie will take over your duties.”
“What the HELL?”
“Actually, that’s not quite correct. All your private holdings and business interests will be in the hands of a Federal Court Officer. You are, as of noontime, the Under-Secretary designate, Law Enforcement, under a new Cabinet Level position, tasked with overseeing the correctional system problems in the Commonwealth, amongst a LOT of other things.”
“How in the HELL did THAT happen? Jane, what have you done to me?” I gasped out, stunned.
“It’s not Jane or the Commonwealth. You’ve been nominated as Under-Secretary in the Department of Homeland Security of the Federal Government. You’ll be confirmed this week. The guys in the suits are part of your protection detail. They are FBI.”
“What is THAT? Homeland Security?”
“Kate,” Jane started, trying to defuse things before they really got started. “The President and the leadership in Congress, in light of the September 11th attacks, announced today the creation of a new Cabinet level department. They are bringing most of the Federal Law Enforcement infrastructure into a new Department, as well as FEMA, and a whole slew of other things. They’ve been thinking of you for the last month. Hal had “John’s” information and in-depth investigation couriered down to D.C. this morning. Your deposition was unsealed and that couriered down to D.C. You are fortunate you had a more or less recent Top Secret clearance. ALL of THAT is in the President’s hands.
“Oh crap. I assume this means everything has come out into the open?”
“Honey, yes. I’m sorry we couldn’t talk to you first. This all blew up after you went to sleep.”
“Almost as soon as the Sheriff was murdered, the FBI was given jurisdiction over the case as a Civil-Right’s violation. The overcrowding in the jails of the Commonwealth, and we know much more about that tonight than we did this morning, has become an issue in the Federal Courts, two separate cases were filed today. A preliminary order to the Commonwealth has given us 90 days to correct the situation or start releasing people.”
“75% of the reason is your “proven track record.” 25% is you are the media’s new darling. Especially after I agreed to allow Jane to leak the details of you becoming Kate, as a result of what’s quickly becoming called by the generic label of 9/11. Honey, if Linda, Jane or I saw a different way we would have taken it. Last night we discussed this going public. We’ve just taken a different path getting there. This way You, Linda, Cendar, our family and employees, Jane, everyone comes out ahead.
“Being transgendered assures your confirmation. Kate One would have been confirmed, but it might have taken some time. You, being politically conservative, the Republican Leadership has to approve for the President, and the Democrats can’t be critical of you unless they are willing to piss off a large part of their grass roots support. Please don’t feel like you are being chosen because of being transgendered. But I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a factor. You’d find that out soon enough, then I’d be in the doghouse.”
“Uh, do we know how this is playing in the afterhours stock markets?”
“Actually we’re doing really well, up a point and a half to $419 a share.”
“Kate, this has been like a snowball rolling down a steep hill. It started out small, the original Kate was on the short list to be appointed to this position. The Birmingham Operation brought you into the public spotlight, and you “earned your spurs” with the Law Enforcement community. No one who saw you toss in that flash-bang would ever say you didn’t deserve to be called a cop. Your investigation of the jail, no matter how short a time, resulted in an arrest warrant in a day and a half. That just added to the public’s perception of you as “the fairest Law Enforcement Officer” in the Commonwealth. Those last two are more than a little my fault.” Jane explained. “Then today, with the gender factor coming out, and your blended family, Senators Kerry and Kennedy pushed your nomination for purely political reasons. You can BET he’s read your complete background checks.”
“So, after today everyone knows. You are the fair haired child. If you had a bit more management experience YOU would be the new Secretary of Homeland Security. Your primary responsibilities will be as THE law enforcement/correctional troubleshooter. Kate, I really hope you can forgive me for you being dragged into this mess.”
I sat there, slack jawed, stunned. Linda came in with a diet cola for me, a bowl of corn chips and salsa, and coffee for Hal and Jane. “They told you?”
I nodded. How could so much change so very fast? My BLENDED FAMILY?? To quote Simon ‘Oh Bloody ‘ell!’
Linda continued in a very small, very scared voice. “I’m so sorry. I wish this had never started.”
“Lin, I’m quoting you now from yesterday, ‘Don’t be an ass. That would mean Carol and maybe the kids would likely be dead.’ I’m not upset with any of you.” Amazingly, I wasn’t. “Stunned? Very. Angry? No. I’m sort of actually relieved. Jane, that goes for you and Hal too. Uh… Do I have to move to DC?”
“Probably at least for part of the time. You’re being given a mandate to “take care” of the correctional issues, and to a lesser extent, some of the Commonwealth’s most glaring law enforcement problems. What you learn here, you’ll use to evaluate what initiatives the Federal Government needs to sponsor for the rest of the country. You will also be learning what procedures and hardware the Federal Government can share with the states. Your Police TAC suit impressed the hell out of a bunch of army types. Monday that gets put into R&D, and production. So expect to spend a lot of field trips to the various military training programs.”
“This all happened in the ten or twelve hours I was asleep? I need to sleep more often! Guys, it’s almost seven O’clock. I need to go apologize to Vikki before dinner. Linda, will you go with me? Jane, you are eating here. Right?”
“If you still want me Kate,” Jane asked.
“I don’t have enough female friends to lose one over so trivial an Issue.” I pulled Jane into a hug. I was having a hard time not crying. “How could you think that? Wasn’t so long ago you told me YES, you ARE my friend. Of course I want you at dinner.”
“You on the other hand,” I grabbed Hal and pulled him out of his chair, “are more than a friend. You are my husband, far more than a friend.” I wrapped my arms around him.
“Come on, My Lady Wife, let’s go so I can face the music.” Linda and I walked out of the office, and down to apologize to one of the most important people in my life. “Let’s go talk to Vikki.”
In the kitchen, Vikki was in the last stages of finishing dinner. “Vikki, could I talk to you for a minute or two?”
Vikki looked at me, and Linda, “Yes Mrs. Steven’s,” she answered, and I was afraid.
The three of us sat around the breakfast nook. “I’m sorry Vikki, I wanted to tell you before it became public knowledge. If I had any inkling this morning what would happen while I was asleep I would have made Ted wait. I wasn’t born Kate. The twins were not MY babies. I was born John. Hal came across me when he was at the Comdex show.” I started weeping. “First Hal, then the senior management, then everyone else just ASSUMED I was Kate. Linda joined us on Thursday. Hal and Linda only saw one issue. For Hal, I was Kate, and he would do ANYTHING to get me to stay Kate. For Linda, it was a way to pay off our house, and put some money away for retirement.” Linda reached over and held my hand as she started crying too. “At first, there were only Hal, Linda, myself, Annie – ‘cause she knew I wasn’t Kate, us four, and two of our lawyers. Everything was done legally. If someone wanted to prove I wasn’t Kate, it would have been almost impossible. Then when I didn’t handle things well Andy, Dr. Tom, and Meri had to be told. While I look perfectly normal as a woman, even unclothed, there were some special needs my doctor had to know about. He actually discovered it while I was unconscious and they had to put a catheter in. I don’t even know if you’ll believe me, but I promise, you were one of the people I HAD to tell before anyone else. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
“Andy explained everything to me last month. I was a little hurt, then Hal told me. I do understand, I’m glad you were going to tell me first. Hal told me that too.” Vikki reached over and took my hand. “The original Kate never took the time to open up or do many of the things you do naturally. She would never have talked to me the way you do, like this morning. Never in a million years would she have invaded the kitchen Christmas day to bake cookies. I understand before the twins died, Kate was much more open, and maybe when they died, part of her died too. I guess if it weren’t for Annie she would have actually died then. When I came here four years ago Annie was almost grown. Kate had withdrawn into herself. You aren’t that way. I know they’ve run you ragged since you came back from that cruise, and I saw what that asshole did to you. Then when I saw how you treated Carol, it was like you two were sisters, I KNEW you had a good heart. You truly are a special woman Kate Stevens. I’m glad you took the time to tell me.”
“Linda, please make sure she’s taken care of. She needs more rest than she’s had this week.”
“Vikki, how long until dinner?”
“Do you need to talk to someone else?”
I nodded my head. “My pastor, from California, is the girl’s chaperone.”
“Go, dinner will be served in 20 minutes??”
“Thank you Vikki. Could I have a hug?”
“Of course.” I’m not sure who hugged who, but we hugged.
Now for the hard part. Linda and I went looking for Pastor Ron Johnson. I sort of figured he’d be in the library, and was glad he was still looking at the books. Someone told me there were over 55000 volumes in there. A librarian came in once a month with new books, and updated the database on what was here.
“Hi you two! Have things been this exciting ever since you left California?”
“You know. I was hoping to talk to you first.”
“I have to shut my eyes to even hear John. Hal had your Mom, TJ and three of your doctor’s talk to me when it became certain your secret was about to become public. Linda, he didn’t tell you because he knew you would tell Kate before she had a chance to talk to me. Guys, I really don’t understand. I don’t know what having such deep, lifelong gender issues must be like. I DO know you two. Especially you Kate. Yes, that’s the name I will use, because that’s who you are. Jeremiah 1:6 really suits you to a tee. Did Andy tell you I’d brought my golf clubs? Tee, golf clubs?” HE laughed. “Aw well, I thought it was funny. Anyhow, Jeremiah wrote, “Before you were born, I knew you. While you were in your mother’s womb I sanctified you.” That’s a powerful verse. It’s one I’ve been wrestling with. It has implications beyond the reality that is you Kate. There are other’s the church doesn’t reach. Does this verse apply to gay people? I’ve begun to think so. The actions/words need to be examined in light of their historical context. I don’t know. I’m working on it.”
“What I do know is you Kate. Your testimony was always something I cherished. You committed your life to Christ a long, long time ago. I’ve never doubted your heart. I’m not going to start. If my understanding of God is so limited that I can’t begin to challenge my preconceptions, then I’m no better than the religious people Jeremiah was sent to prophesy to. I will admit, you’ve challenged my preconceptions. Even more, your words last night made it clear you were willing to accept my judgment. I won’t judge you. All I’ve seen is a woman, whose doctors are unanimous in affirming she is a woman. She certainly seems to be just as good a woman as I’ve ever met. You may not realize it, but your people love you. I’ve seen no change in that today since the news came out. You are loved. What a powerful thing. YOU are LOVED.”
“I didn’t mean to preach a sermon Kate, I just knew you’d slept through this morning. Called out in the middle of the night two nights in a row? Wow, even I try to avoid that. Everything you’ve been through in the last month? I can’t begin to fathom it. You were really raped? I saw the pictures of you, I’d known you were beaten.”
“Yes Ron, I was. You have no idea of what followed.” I began to sob. Lin was still holding onto my hand. She at least had the presence of mind to grab some tissue. “Afterwards, I’d passed out from the beating. I woke up with a broken nose, a broken collar bone, anus torn and bleeding. I was naked, hurting, and tied to the bed. A gag in the mouth, barely able to breath. I’m sorry, I tried to kill myself. If Lin hadn’t found me in time I’d be dead. As it was, it was touch and go. Truthfully, I’m not really well wrapped right now. I still tend to blame myself.”
“I had no idea.”
“That’s because Hal and Linda, my staff, and my doctors are all sneaky, selfish people. They refused to let me die at my own hand. They are still putting me back together.”
“I’m glad they are that way. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this talk. Kate, you’ve been told, I’m sure, that reaction is so very, very common.”
I just nodded my head.
Linda, bless her, pointed out it was seven, and dinner would be served shortly.
Pastor Johnson pulled me up out of my chair, and into a hug. “Well, let me affirm you in this. You sure smell better!”
I couldn’t help it, I began to giggle. “Thank you.”
“I should take you upstairs to get cleaned up for dinner Kate.”
I just nodded and followed, well actually I let myself be dragged.
I washed my face, redid my makeup, and we went down to dinner. Vikki, using some kind of radar I’ve never discovered, started serving dinner as I was going down the stairs.
Dinner was perfect. I asked Pastor Johnson to say grace, Hiram, Janie, and Simon were all back from the jail. “All done?” Simon turned to me, “Just starting really. But I suppose it will hold together better until we can fix it.”
After dessert, Hal asked everyone to stay seated for a couple of minutes. Vikki came out of the kitchen, and a couple of the duty officers were also in the room. “Some of you may have questions tonight. Governor Wells, Kate’s mom, and I will be happy to answer any remaining questions after the Governor, and I read prepared statements.”
“For those who haven’t met me, I’m Governor Jane Wells of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Kate has been asked to take a leave of absence, and tackle the job of Under Secretary in the brand new Department of Homeland Security. Kate is, and has been for years, my very good friend. Now that may sound crazy, especially if all you heard was the news today.
“The woman we had all known, and loved dearly, Kate Stevens died in the 9/11 attack. She was in New York, seeing to private business when it happened. Because her body was never found, Hal was loathe to admit it, and kept putting it off. In November, he attended the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. While he was there, he met Kate.”
I had no idea Hal was planning this, or that Jane was helping him. But for the third time in the last two hours I was reduced to tears.
“That wasn’t her name then, but that is who she is now. No matter what you have heard, Kate is, and always has been a woman, at least where it counts. If you have heard she was born male, then that is also true. Outwardly, she looked like a man. She even fathered two lovely children, and now she’s the mother to a third child. But where it counts, in her brain, she always, ALWAYS has been a woman. Every one of her doctor’s agree with that.”
“Now the REALLY crazy thing about this is Kate One, who died, and Kate Two, who is here are virtually identical twins. They look alike, they think alike, they have the same likes and dislikes, and they even talk the same. Actually, Kate Two has a little California accent, but everyone who has known them both agree they are closer than most identical twins. Legally, there was almost no way to prove otherwise. All of the proper legal notifications, all the proper legal papers, all the company records, all say Kate Two IS Kate One.”
“I am partly responsible. I’ve helped in the legal processes. Everything is and has been legal and proper. If Kate had not been asked to go to Washington, she would have made this news public in the next two weeks.”
“Kate had been named by me as a special investigator in the death of a detainees at the Essex County Jail, he had been murdered.”
“Then last night, I called her again. She spent most of the night at the jail. Two more men had been killed. Kate was told this morning, by her doctor, she was going to bed for ten hours. So, she did. The doctor, along with Kate’s Security detail kept everyone away, including Hal and Linda, until a little bit ago. EVERYTHING happened while she was asleep. For those of you at Cendar, or here on the estate, she had planned to tell you before today happened. The timing and the way things happened were NOT of Kate’s planning.”
“So, that’s my announcement.”
Hal, stood up and began, “For those of you with Cendar, and the estate, I apologize for the way I’ve handled it. My mishandling nearly cost Kate her life a couple of weeks ago. I am truly sorry for both the way I have handled everything, and the way my actions have hurt my wife. I love her very dearly.”
“While Kate One and Kate Two are nearly identical, Andy was talking with me a few days ago. I don’t remember if it was him or me who said it first, but both of us agree on this the Kate we have with us put the heart back into Cendar. When Kate One was killed I went downhill very fast. I KNOW Annie was afraid I’d harm myself. I KNOW other’s felt the same way. I DON’T KNOW if I’d be here, right now, if I hadn’t found Kate Two. Actually, she’s Kate. Period. Christmas, Kate agreed and decided from then on she would be just Kate. Linda, Andy, Governor Wells, Simon, and I were there to hear and to witness to it.”
“So, if anyone has a problem with Kate being Kate, you have a problem NOT with Kate but with ME.”
Hal sat down. Pastor Johnson asked if HE could say something.
“I’m not going to say much. I’ve given one sermon today. I knew the woman you all know as Kate. That wasn’t what she was called then. Whatever name you want to call her, I know she is a tremendous woman of faith. I have absolutely NEVER doubted that. Thank you.”
I looked at him with tears in my eyes, thinking, ‘gosh he’s good!’ telling the absolute truth and meaning ME, from John to Kate.
Not to be outdone, Leo rose and asked if HE could say a few words. “If you were on the outside looking in, you’d see a woman who was brutally raped and beaten. You would see that man’s wife sitting at table with her, and you would see that man’s Lawyer.”
“How did this come about you may ask? December 26 I appeared in the Federal Court in Miami, Florida. I arranged bail for John Maxwell. It was a lot of money. That John died in custody will allow most of that money to revert to Carol Maxwell. When I picked John up, I took him to his room. As I entered, John slugged me, knocking me out. His words to me were, “I can’t buy that damned bitch off, so I’ll have to kill her.”
“I don’t really know why, but he left me tied up. Four or five hours later it was clear he wasn’t coming back and I worked myself free of the knots.”
“A lawyer does a lot of things for his client. What he does not do is aid in a murder. I called Cendar, and eventually spoke with Hal. He suggested flying here. I told him first I had to get Carol out of her house. It was likely this time John would kill her.”
“Without hesitation, Hal said his wife Kate wouldn’t be able to rest until Carol was safe here. Think of it. Kate is a woman whose heart is so big she took in the wife of the man who beat and raped her.”
“That by itself shows Kate to be a woman of outstanding character. The next day Kate and Carol met, and discovered how much they had in common. Carol’s bruising from her last beating at the hands of her husband, and Kate whose swelling had gone down but was presentable only with makeup, recognized in the other a sister they hadn’t met yet. Kate then decided to spoil Carol’s children rotten. Between buying enough clothes, equestrian gear, and their own horses, providing sleeping quarters both the two girls, and her son, just on and on and on Kate makes everyone in this house happy.”
“That night was the raid in Birmingham. John Maxwell was recaptured. Now I know it’s not against any law or constitutional precept, but the picture of John Maxwell in his pink one-piece anti-suicide garment was one of the highlights of my week. Two days earlier he had conked me on the head pretty hard, gashing my scalp open. I couldn’t help but think pink was a color he needed to become more familiar with. I’ve been assured by Annie, the designer of the suit that pink was just a byproduct of the manufacturing, though she will reluctantly admit to adding a little red colorant to the formulae – for identification purposes, but certainly not to make it pink. Thank you Annie.”
“Friday night John Maxwell was murdered. Kate was called in to supervise the investigation. She didn’t want it, but would do her best. What was more important to Carol, and to me was a conversation on the stairway between Carol and Kate. Carol told Kate about everything John had done to her. When Carol fled, she took certain files from the safe in their house. One of the files listed each of John’s rape victims. Another file detailed how John had taken insurance policies out on Carol’s parents, then had them killed.”
“At the end of the conversation Kate asked Carol the most life changing question of her life. She asked, “do you know Leo loves you?”
“And I do, and she does, so here and now,” Leo dropped to one knee, “Carol will you marry me?”
Then a loud piercing scream sounded in stereo as Maeve and Siobhan ran to hug their mother and Leo. Carol smiled almost shyly and nodded her head yes.
Leo turned to Pastor Johnson, “Pastor, would you do the ceremony for us? Girl’s, Annie needs to measure you for Bridesmaid’s dresses, Annie, could you put a wedding dress together with your software?”
“Of course Leo. Carol, we should look at some pictures tonight so I can see what you like.”
“Kate, will you be my matron of honor?”
Who wouldda thunk it?
I looked around the room, life has its own system of checks and balances. Things often work out better than we could possibly imagine. They certainly had for me. I’m told no one planned it, but people just came over to stand by me. Jane, all my family, Carol and Leo, and kids, All of my team. Finally, Pastor Johnson came over and leaned down to hug me. I was the center of a constantly changing group hug.
However it happened, my ghosts were gone. I was alive. I was ME. And it all began again at,
Kate Stevens will be teaming up with Beth Pruett from “Honor First, Honor Last, Always Honor” in “Brilliant Fury” appearing this winter on Big Closet.
This story was conceived, and begun more than ten years ago. For a lot of reasons, it got stuck, shelved, on the back burner, out of sight out of mind… well, you get the idea. I’ve two new writing projects, and absolutely HAD to clear some of my backlog.
Amongst other reasons, 250 pages of “Brilliant Fury” is already written, and it begins soon after this story ends. I suppose it’s really a continuation of Comdex. It was bad enough that half of Comdex was written before “Honor First, Honor Last, Always Honor” which is set in 1975, 20 years before Comdex takes place.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I did finish it. I didn’t know how it would end, and it was driving me crazy. Not to mention my wife, gave me seventeen different kinds of hell over leaving it. I’ve been working on lots of things, including my own transition. Today my doctor signed the forms to change my name and gender, so somehow it seemed very appropriate to finish the story today.
I’ve enjoyed it - mostly.
Now, a bit of a soap-box rant. Too often we close our eyes to the cost being transgendered has for our loved ones. I know, many times, not always, I have. This spring my wife made it clear our marriage of nearly forty years is over. All the times she was being supportive? She now tells me she was lying. With the best intentions, she gave me the impression things would be okay. Not good, but “okay.”
IF YOU ARE TRANSGENDERED. Know that if you even admit it to yourself the cost is terrible. No matter what you do, if you take even ONE step, SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT. You’ll still have choices. You can work on self-realization, and perhaps find a measure of peace for yourself and those you care about, or you can choke it down cold and pretend it never happened – and live with the consequences. I wish I could tell you what to do. I wish I knew at the beginning what I know now. I probably would have done it differently. For me, in spite of everything I truly believe it was transition or die.
As of today, it has cost: my wife, my adult children, my home, the list continues…
I truly pray God gives you the answers. Yes I believe in a caring, loving God, and have since I was twenty. In fact that’s where I met my wife. Don’t look to me for answers, all I have are hurts, still lots of questions, my life, and the knowledge I’ve done my best with horrid choices.
I can live with that.
San Diego, June 2014
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