Treisha lay naked in a pool of blood; her tongue slit...bruise marks all over the body. Her forehead was covered in blood, her face looks pale. Her lipstick, her eyeliner and mascara smudged on her face. I think she must have cried a lot. I can't breathe and I feel dizzy. I need something to sit-on. My legs suddenly feel weak.
Suddenly I feel a pat on my shoulder. I turn to see Treisha staring at me. Her eyes are shining and pleading as if trying to say something. I didn’t see her lips move but I heard her saying, "Help me", and those words keep echoing as she disappears in thick fog.
I open my eyes and sit up, I am sweating profusely and my throat is unusually dry. This is not the first time I have seen this dream. And I know this is not the last time either. I rub my eyes and look around. I recognize the dingy smell that fills the room. It’s hot and very humid. There is a very small window and I could only see moon and at times birds.
I miss freedom, I miss good food, and I miss my life... not that it was extra-ordinary. I have screwed it up a big time with my excessive use of drugs and careless lifestyle. I have AIDS. I know I will die soon. But I don't want to die with a tag of a murderer , that too murder of the only woman I loved and who loved me unconditionally.
It’s been a year since Treisha was murdered. She might be a prostitute by profession but according to me she was no less than a lady. She would get gifts for children living in the orphanage, where she grew up. She was abandoned by her parents and the orphanage priest found her and took her in. She too wanted a normal life, we had planned to marry. She worked for a guy, the boss, who would get her clients. As the days passed she was getting desperate to leave the job .She would often say, "Let's run away to some place, where my boss will never be able to find us. I have enough money saved that could take care of us for a long time."
The day she died that very morning Treisha and I had a fight. I didn't want her to work as a prostitute anymore. I couldn't take the fact that she was sleeping with other men. In rage I slapped her. But I had no idea that that ill-fated fight would go against me and I would be accused of murdering my girl friend.
I know I have to die someday...if not be electric-chair than by AIDS.... but I don't want to die as my girl friend's killer. I wish I could somehow prove my innocence. The helpless feeling of not being able to do anything was killing me. I felt dizzy. I asked the guard, who was standing near my cell, if I could take a shower. That guard was a good man and the only one who thought I was innocent. He smiled and agreed to my request.
It is only 10 at night. I can hear other inmates laughing and joking. Every night, alcohol and drugs are smuggled inside the jail. I prefer to keep a low key; I am still to come to terms with the fact that in another 48 hrs, I have to face my fate - that dreaded chair.
I request the guard to unlock my cell so that I could take a shower. The guard unlocked it and I walked out of my cell. I noticed 5-6 inmates were already in the shower room. As I entered I could hear the mumbling. All of a sudden there was silence...I turn to see everybody leaving the shower room.
I strip to get into the shower. I turn on the shower, before I could even step into it. All of a sudden, somebody holds my neck from behind, and pushes my head downwards. I try to stop him but he's too huge and too strong for me. I try to scream but that man covers my mouth with his smelly hands, turns me around and punches me hard across my face. I fall on the hard, slippery bathroom floor, and helplessly watch as the man sits on top of me forcing a smelly cloth in my mouth.
I desperately try to recognize the man's face. He's drunk for sure. I can smell cheap whisky. The man turns me around.....I realize my hands have been tied and he forces himself on me. I wanted to scream and ask him to stop for his own good. But with cloth inside my mouth I can't. The man forces himself on me. He banged my head to the floor every time I resisted. He kept on talking, something about escaping, making a tunnel...I was in too much pain to concentrate. I was about to faint, but he stopped, I just collapsed on the floor with blood oozing out of my forehead.
I woke up next morning in my cell. Every part of my body pained due to all the physical abuse my body had to go through. Everything that happened last night came as a flash. I even remembered the big guy who molested me. His name is Billy - The Brawler, he's a boxer and he's serving his term for armed robbery. Nobody in this Penitentiary would mess with him.
It was my time to go and help the cleaner clean the bathrooms. As I stepped out and was about to go to work I saw the guy who molested me last night. I looked at him, I so wanted to kill him for doing what he did but I just looked down and tried to pass but he stopped me.
"Hey, Tracy Boy, I wanna have a word with ya" Billy looked at me; I was busy looking at his biceps. Fighting with him would mean dying 48 hrs before the stipulated time. He said " "Listen whatever happened last night, if you say that to anybody, I’ll beat the sh*t outta ya...do you understand me boy?"
I just nodded my head, desperate to run away from him. He stopped me again “I was too drunk ... but really enjoyed last night, I think would do it again with ya, someday when I am in my senses." He showed his weed stained teeth.
I gathered some courage and said "I know about you and your tunnel..." Hearing this blood drained from Billy’s face. I continued "I too want to escape from this dreaded place. Help me escape this place and your secret will be safe with me. I’ll do whatever you want me to. " Sleeping with him was a very small price to pay for freedom.
The boxer guy studied me for a minute. Then he smiled "Ya'sure, you'd do anythin I ask ya of?" I again nodded my head. He again flashed his brownish yellowish teeth. "Okay will think about it" then he leaned closer” we are not finished, you’ll be seeing a lot of me" I remembered last night. It gave me the creeps but I wanted to be free so I agreed
He slapped me on my butt...and he walked away and then he turned and said "midnight... my cell...I’ll tell the guards" he flashed his teeth again.
I was in Arlington, if I ever escaped from this place. I had to reach New York in one piece. I had to find THE BOSS..... But I scold myself to concentrate on the immediate problem...escaping from the prison and even before that... facing Billy... again. Just the thought of his name made me frown.
I somehow got through the day. At the time of the lunch, I knew Billy’s eyes followed me where ever I went. I tried to ignore it. Every time I look at him, horrifying scenes of last night comes flashing back, sending shivers down my spine. I saw Billy walking towards me flashing his stained teeth. My first reaction was to run, but then I chose to stay. He came too close for comfort and he said " Black Birds are gonna fly tonight." It took me more than a minute to register the message.
We were summoned to go back to our respective cells. As we started moving, I saw Billy along with an inmate sneaking few buckets. I just wondered how well-built and strong these guys were. They carried two buckets with such ease and they even hid it behind them, whenever it was needed.
Billy noticed that I was looking at him. He smiled his irritating smile and winked at me. I wondered If Treisha too faced such things?? How did she cope with it??? No wonder she was so desperate to leave that job and get back to her normal life.
I reached my cell and as I lie on my bunk. I thought what must have pushed Treisha to prostitution. Okay she was an Orphan ...but all orphans do not become prostitutes. Somebody must have pushed her into it. I remember asking Treisha once and she said..." I have been physically and mentally abused since I was a Kid... so now it doesn't matter...I am used to it. Moreover "The Boss" has taken care of me...even as a kid. He will take care of me always."
Soon puzzle started falling into place. ‘The boss’ must be the guy who too lived in the orphanage or maybe he managed it. He was never happy about Treisha leaving prostitution. Maybe he was behind her death. I feel so impotent and helpless about the fact that I cannot do anything about it anymore.
I was engrossed in deep thought...when I heard my cell door open, Jail Sergeant along with the lawyers entered.
Reagan...My lawyer smiled his sympathetic smile. I looked at him and smiled back. Jose the public attorney looked at me with contempt. I reciprocated the feeling. My court scene flashed in my mind. The way he accused me, the way he brought my AIDS and Drug addiction into the picture to prove me the murderer. Okay, I have AIDS ...I was a drug addict. But I will never kill my girlfriend.
Jose said “Tomorrow at 12:00 noon. You would be executed. Do you have anything to say? I nodded my head. They left.
It all began to get too much for me and turmoil began to swirl in the centre of my being to the point that I was nauseous with it until I couldn't contain it anymore and it all came pouring out of me like a dam had just burst open. I cried ,not because I will be dead by this time tomorrow, but because of the fact that I couldn’t get justice for Treisha. The murderer is still scott free, roaming around on the streets of New York.
For the first time in so many years I thought about my parents. My parents are small time Grocery store owners in Texas. They had disowned me for not joining family business. They have no idea their son is going to get executed .
Against everybody’s wishes I had come to New York to become a sketch artist. I always wanted to be an artist. In New York, I met Louis, who too was in the same profession,was a drug addict and the one who introduced me to drugs like cocaine, ecstasy. We would go to strip clubs, screw whores. It was then I met Treisha. I was so high on drugs all the time that I messed up my entire career. Soon I had no money, no food and no house. It was Treisha who came to my rescue...she took me in.
After a year, my body started growing weak, I looked pale. I thought it one of the few side effects of drugs. But Treisha forced me to get myself checked. It was then we discovered I was HIV +. She could have thrown me out of the house. But she did not. I still remember, her face went soft and she said don't worry we would fight it together.
So many things happened with Treisha. It could have turned anybody bitter towards life and people. But she was always smiling. In that multiple layers of make-up there was a woman, who was beautiful not only from the outside but also from the inside. She made me quit drugs lead a normal life. She didn't deserve to die like that.
I promised myself I will escape from this hell-hole and find that murderer. I know I am going to die soon and I also know I will not die on that dreaded chair.
I was back to reality with a loud noise. "Dinner" One of the guards screamed. My cell door opened. I went down and I saw Billy talking to one of the guards. He looked at me and he said he wants me inside the shower room again. The guard laughed. I looked questioningly at him and he held my neck from behind and forced my inside the shower room. It was empty as I suspected.
I was scared... I knew what was coming. Billy whistled and 5 other inmates came out. I looked around quizzically and then I turned to Billy, wondering what he had in mind. Billy like always flashed his teeth and said "Not today, Boy. I will enjoy your company out of this Prison"
He took out a sheet of paper. A map was drawn on it. Billy started whispering " The guards think that I am screwing you. So they have turned off the cameras. But that’s gonna be for just 15 minutes. So we have execute our plan within that time.” He looked at me. I nodded my head .He continued “The Square that you see here is our Penitentiary. We have made a tunnel in the bathroom. This goes parallel to the drain pipes. It would lead us to the main gutter. From there to river Stillaguamish and we're free."
"Any questions?" he asked. All of us nodded our heads.
"Let’s strip and cover our bodies with grease, so that our movement cannot be easily detected". Billy ordered. We did as we were told. We went inside one of the toilets. There was a small tunnel. One by one we entered the tunnel. Billy was the last one to enter it. He covered the tunnel again with a commode.
It was very dark and the entire tunnel was infested with rats and deadly ants. It really didn't bother me much. Because all I wanted was to be out this terrible place. The smell was awful. We were butt-naked and ants and rats had a dinner party at our expense . But we were not suppose to make any noise... because the tunnel would echo and guards would know prisoners were trying to escape. We kept moving. I could hear water somewhere. The sound of water kept increasing. Billy whispered "STOP" and he started pushing something through the wall. All of a sudden, the entire tunnel collapsed into the gutter. We were in the main gutter. Everybody rejoiced. In spite being in the sewage and seeing stool floating in front of me still I felt very happy. There was just one problem. The iron plate that separated the gutter from the stream
Billy with the help of an equally strong man...moved up and started unscrewing the bolts. All of a sudden we could hear somebody coming. Immediately everybody went under water. It was so dirty and filthy. The stench was unbearable. Soon we could hear somebody coming in and again leaving. After couple of minutes we came out to find the area clear. Again Billy along with the other guy started unscrewing the bolts. Finally they did. One by one we jumped into the river.
We started swimming towards the shore. AIDS had made me weak. I couldn't swim. I was drowning. Somebody just scooped me up and took me ashore. It was Billy. But as soon as I came out of the river so much of excitement had already taken a toll on me. I saw Billy grinning at me and I drifted off to sleep.
Billy punched me and woke me up “Hey boy not the right place to sleep. Get up and get dressed."I got up with difficulty and I got dressed. He took me to a cheap dormitory, where we had our bath.
Billy soon took an opportunity to have a way with me. I did not stop him this time. After we were done, He gave me $ 800 and said it was a parting gift. Along with that he took me to a saloon and shaved my head and brought some new clothes. He asked "Where would you go, now?"
I smiled and said "New York"
Billy looked earnestly at me and said "I like you boy"
"I know you do but not for very long" I answered.
Billy looked quizzically at me and then turned and walked off
I collected my things and took a bus to New York City. I checked my watch it was 12:00 noon, the time I was supposed to get executed. I guess God had better plans for me. Regarding Billy he was already adequately punished...he's got my deadly disease too. Now only one person is left who's to be brought to justice.