The black deputy inside the Plexiglas cylinder in the center of the clean, spacious, near-empty waiting room of the Wayne County Jail called out a name. It sounded Italian. An old, Afro man with thick glasses and a cheap wig, stood and walked slowly to the cylinder with the help of a walker. The thumb and fore-finger of his right hand gripped a red, white and blue, ward-of-the-state bank-card, emblazoned with an American Eagle. The rest of his digits curled around the crossbar of the walker.
Leah Flores watched from her seat on a long wooden bench running along one side of the imitation blue-marble wall. Twelve other people were spread out on the same bench, waiting to free someone behind bars on the upper floors. Nine of the others were women; two were Arabic; three were black. She was the only Hispanic. Judging by the suits, briefcases, wristbands and bored expressions of the two white men sitting apart from each other and the three distraught white women, Leah pegged the men as lawyers or law clerks like herself.
A few years before, five times as many people would have been in the waiting room. Nearly all of them who werent there on business, would have been black. So much had changed so quickly that it was hard to account for the apparently lower crime rate reflected in those numbers, or the ethnic shift in the jail population.
Whatever it was didnt explain why black criminals operating in NEZs werent in jail, or why eighty five or ninety percent of the white inmates had dark brown eyes. Leah wondered what it would take for Andrea to see something other than a lack of solid Republican values at the level of the dark-eyed underclass to account for that lopsided eye-color phenomenon.
The two women never talked politics or religion if they could avoid it, but they couldnt avoid living by the dictates of someone elses politics and religion. Politics and religion were the socio-economic tunes everyone danced to. In the process, someone always got left out, someone always stepped on someone elses toes, and someone always made money.
The underclass, like the old man now at the deputys station, and most of the others in the waiting room, were the ones who got left out. The criminals, like the young, unkempt, black man being led by a deputy through a steel door into a cage with a solid glass-front, were the poor who stepped on the toes of the poor, and anyone who stepped on the toes of the rich. The people writing the tunes in the legislatures and playing them for huge sums of money on the talk-show circuit, were the leading citizens. The more money they made, the more influence they had over other peoples lives.
Estelle Gidarb was making a fortune.
When Leah and Andrea first saw her on that talk show in Wyoming, they never dreamed they would both be drawn into the fabric of her movement as it was being woven by public exposure. Now, Andrea was in a race with time to find Arnold Travis before he underwent her surgical procedure to cure him of his familys disapproval, and Leah was risking everything to help Blue Monday. Given Leahs inside knowledge of the political games being played with some of Blues favorite body parts, she felt a moral obligation to do what she could. Besides, to do nothing would have been downright foolhardy.
Blues trial and conviction could have desolating effects on Leah, Andrea and anyone else who ever sampled his wares. A criminal investigation would inevitably force his bank to disclose his financial transactions to the state. A high-profile conviction would make the private lives of everyone he did business with fair game for the media and the law. Never mind the fact that Leah and Andrea had found Blues erotic offerings less exciting than elevator music. Their relationship to the court, each other and pornography in general, all tied to one brief contact with Blue, could make them too juicy a set of targets for Dr. Shannon or Attorney General Fleetwood to ignore.
While Andreas considerable financial resources were enough to bail Blue out of jail and keep him out of a disposal zone indefinitely, she could do nothing to save him from the charge of "obscenity purveying." No decent lawyer in the state would defend him, and Leah wasnt sure how much help she could offer as a mere law clerk without the backing of her firm. But she was determined to give it her best, for his sake as well as her own and everyone close to her.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a tone in her earlobe receiver that told her to check her wristband telewindow for a priority one message.
"Congratulations!" it said. "You are now a member of the Michigan Bar."
Leah wanted to jump up and shout. She wanted to hug the closest person to herwho happened to be the young man fresh from the cage who was walking past her with his arm around a young black woman's shoulders while the old man with the walker trailed far behind. She wanted to buy everyone drinks at the nearest saloon. After all the years of going to law school and running errands for licensed attorneys, she was now a licensed attorney herself. It was like listening to a horse-race in court and trying not to react when your horse won the daily double. She clenched both fists, triumphantly in front of her face and said, "Touchdown!" in as subdued a tone as she could muster.
She was sure the old man and all the others staring at her demonstration of glee, would have understood why she did it if they knew, so she didnt feel all that self-conscious. She had to tell somebody. It was a toss-up as to whether she would call her parents or her lover first.
She punched a preset button on her wristband computer and mirrored her face in the T-window before the face of an Hispanic man in his mid-fifties with silvery hair and a thin, black mustache, took its place. Her happy expression had the immediate effect of doing likewise for his.
"Daddy, is Ma around?
"No, shes at the church dancing for Jesus or some goddamn thing. What is it?"
"I passed. I passed the bar!"
The man in the T-window beamed. "Great, Leah! Oh, honey, Im so proud of you I could shit."
Leah laughed. How her crude, irreverent father and refined, devout mother ever fell in love and got married had baffled her as a child and young adult. Their love was so intense she could feel the radiance of it herself whenever they were close. Her mother called it "chemistry." When she fell in love with Andrea, she understood completely. So had her parents understood Leah and Andreas feelings for each other when they met for the first time in one room. It was the same rare, precious, radiant, exclusive and non-transferable thing.
Leah accepted the label of "lesbian," even though she wasnt sure it applied to her. She didnt fantasize about women. She had never been physically or emotionally attracted to one other than Andrea. Perhaps there was only one woman in the world she was capable of feeling those things for and a million possible men. But she had found the woman, just as her father had found his woman and her mother had found her man.
"Have you told Andrea yet?"
"No. You were the first?"
"Waitll I tell your mother. Shes gonna be so jealous. I love it."
"Youd better call Andrea."
"Give her our love."
"I will. Why dont you and Ma come over this weekend for dinner?"
"I got a better idea. Why dont you and Andrea come over here? You know how your mother likes to entertain. Thisll give her an excuse to pull out all the stops."
Leah chuckled. "Yeah. But lets keep it between the four of us, okay?"
"Anything you say. Wow! My daughter, the blood-sucking lawyer."
"Bye, Dad." She blew him a kiss.
"Bye Leah." He grinned.
She touched the preset and the T-window became a digital time display. It was 9:34 A.M.
Leah slid the mode bar on her wristband computer to "window" and selected her favorite history channel to pass the time. She latched onto an ancient Roman chariot race she hadnt seen before, enhanced by three of the stations "live action" announcers and color commentators for ancient sporting events. The T-window was too small to follow that kind of action. The closer she pulled it to her eyes, the more she could see inside, like looking through a small hole in a wall. But that was awkward to do in public. She reset the wristband computer to the time display, then pulled a slim, 3" x 5" telewindow from her vest pocket and pressed a floating button on a control strip below the blank window. It came to life with the same chariot race.
Leah was on the brink of sorting out who was who, when the signal began to break up. A familiar message appeared in white letters on an indigo background:
"WE ARE NOT RECEIVING A SIGNAL FROM OUR FLASHBACK RECORDING AND ENCODING DEVICE SATELLITE. OUR TIME-TRACK ENGINEERS ARE WORKING TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM. PLEASE STAND BY."
That might have been true. It certainly happened often enough to make one think so. It may also have been a cover for the break-up of signals when some controversial historical issue might have been decided by direct observation against the American partys version of history. The faulty signal message was frequently displayed at crucial moments on the religious channels her mother watched. Her mother accepted the supernatural explanations given by established Christian leaders and the chaplain of the American Party for why no one could see what Jesus Christ looked like or hear what he said. Her father put his faith in more secular explanations. The older Leah got, the more faith she put in her father.
At 10:29, the deputy inside the cylinder announced another name that sounded Italian. This time, the person who went to the deputys station was a deeply wrinkled old woman in a faded old dress, who looked as though she might have come from Italian stock. She too carried a red, white and blue bank-card, emblazoned with an American Eagle, as did most of the people in the waiting room. Leah often wondered where the money would come from to replace the food, rent and medicine money coming out of those peoples bare-bones accounts, to pay the courts ransom for the release of their loved-ones. The only sure thing was, nobody in the criminal-justice system gave a damn.
The old woman had been ahead of Leah at the station to register her bail with the deputy when she first entered the building, so Leah knew she would be called next to pay it when Blue was ready to be set free. The process didnt seem to go forward at a regular pace, so she couldnt predict when that would be. At the moment, a young, shapely woman with long black hair, too much make-up, and a short, sleeveless dress that looked like yellow latex, was led by a female guard into the release cage. She might be let out immediately after the old woman paid her bail as the Afro boy with the Italian name had been after the old man paid his, or she might have to stand there for another ten or fifteen minutes.
Leah touched a button on her vest-pocket T-window and the program guide came up. Then she moved the floating button, which moved the pointer to a news channel. The girl in the cage reminded her of a recent story about a serial killer operating on the fringes of a disposal zone, who preyed on sexually active women. Leah scanned the news-day topic board and found the latest chapter in the story. The killer, who raped his victims and strangled them with a brown leather beltnot necessarily in that orderhad struck again in the early morning. This time, there was evidence that his victim, a dark-haired cosmetologist, had tied the belt around her own throat. His previous victim, a dark-haired prostitute, had done the same thing.
Had the crimes occurred in the DZ, they would not have made news. Had they occurred farther from the border where "real Americans" lived, a time trace would have been launched automatically after the first violent incident. The perpetrator would have been caught in the act and brought to justice immediately. But if the city extended expensive time-scan surveillance to those border areas where the taxpayers couldnt even afford to enroll their children in high school, who was going to pay for it?
The killer, knew what he was doing. As long as he attacked "bad women" in bad areas, no one was going to track him with a time-scan. A smart, dedicated cop might nail him through conventional investigation methods. Such a man was supposedly on the case. Leah wasnt convinced that he was real. If he wasnt, the local Condor news affiliate would have invented him for the sake of a better story. Regardless of what anyone in the news business said, a good story always came first. The people who consistently came up with the best stories, got the most viewers. More viewers meant more advertising dollars for the station. A bigger audience meant bigger profits for the advertisers, and maybe a bonus for their execs. In short, a little rape and murder on the fringes of polite society was good for the economy.
The door was opened for the woman in the cage to leave at the same time the deputy in the cylinder announced, "Monday, Blue."
Only a few people reacted to the name in a way that indicated they knew who he was. Both of the lawyers looked up sharply and expectantly as did a white, middle-aged woman and a younger black one. No one else paid attention as Leah got up and went to see the deputy.
The deputy accepted her gold card on his desk through a small slot without looking up from whatever he was checking with a pencil against whatever he was seeing on a screen tilted up in front of him. He looked at the card, the screen and the paper hed just checked, passed the card through a reader-slit and slipped it back to her through the slot in the Plexiglas.
"Your transaction number is your receipt," he said, looking up with his pale blue eyes in odd contrast to his sepia skin. "When Mr. Monday appears in court, youll get sixty percent of it back."
"You mean eighty percent, dont you." She wanted to add, Im a lawyer, you cant pull that shit on me! but, the truth was, criminal bonding law was changing so rapidly she couldnt know for sure. She clicked her card back in the magnetic accounting case of her wallet and slid the wallet back into the deep pocket of her skirt as the deputy shrugged.
"I aint got nothin ta do with it, lady. Im just tellin you what it says."
There was no point in arguing. Whatever the truth was, she and Andrea would have to live with it. She nodded and returned to her spot on the bench.
When she sat down, Blue, wearing the shark-skin suit hed been arrested in the night before, was led into the cage. He stood with his hands folded in front of him, looking puzzled but calm and dignified as his eyes swept the room from wall to wall to wall. Leah sat against the third wall of his visual sweep, her eyes never leaving his as his traveled past hers. A part of her, the part that believed in cosmic connections between kindred spirits, thought he should have known her on sight. When he didnt, she was disappointed.
The cage door opened and Blue stepped out. Only then did Leah feel the true danger of the course she and Andrea had set for themselves. She stood on unsteady legs. Blue walked cautiously in her direction. He looked at her and tilted his head slightly to one side as if to ask, Was it you?
Leah nodded and met him halfway. She extended her hand, unconsciously expecting to feel the sleaze associated with his name dripping off of his hand as they touched. His hand was cold, but his eyes and his smile were warm. She hoped her eyes and her smile were as warm as his. She hoped he could read more in them than her doubts and fears of the moment.
"Im Leah Flores," she said.
"And Im damn grateful," said Blue.
His remarkhis whole manner, put Leah quickly at ease.
"Can I drive you home?" she offered as they walked to the exit.
"If I still have one," he said.
The people who recognized Blues name stared at him and Leah as they left the building.
Between the doors of the jail and the doors of her car in a parking lot two blocks away, Leah was able to give Blue a fairly good account of who she was and why she and her lesbian lover bailed him out of jail. He told her that he would pay them back. He asked a few pertinent questions here and there. Mostly, he listened with no hint of interest in her sexuality other than the involuntary look of approval most men would occasionally give a woman they thought was exceptionally attractive. All the while Leah kept thinking, Hes so sweet! If this isnt a decent man, theres no such thing. She liked him and she knew Andrea would, too...
Attractive women made Blue nervous. The woman sitting beside him in the drivers seat of the English sports car, was making him very nervous. Though his idea of being nervous would barely register with the vast majority of human-kind, it was a warning sign to him that he had to heed.
"The Leighton is faster," he said, directing her past the entrance ramp of the nearest freeway to the freeway closest to his home in northwest Detroit. "I cant tell you enough how much I appreciate this, Ms. Flores. I have to pay you and your friend something for your trouble."
"Dont worry about it," she said. "They must have told you at the arraignment that your assets have been seized by the state."
Blue shook his head. "They zapped the money out of my bank account. I have a bag full of cash Ive been putting away for years in case something like this happened."
"Cash? God, I cant remember the last time I saw a dollar bill."
"Youre about to see some hundred dollar bills."
"What do you do with them? Nobody handles cash anymore."
"Thats how the law looks at it," said Blue. "They figure cash has to be converted to electronic currency through a legal account before it can be spent on anything worthwhile. So, when they amended the criminal forfeiture statutes, paper money wasnt covered...Why are you smiling like that?"
"You know a lot about the law, dont you Mr. Monday."
"In my line of work, I have to."
"Me too," said Leah. "Im a lawyer."
Blue laughed. "I must have sounded like an ass," he said
"Not at all. The only thing you missed was the motive behind that loop-hole you discovered. Those guys in Lansing pass laws like that all the time to protect themselves and their friends. As a matter of fact, thats what most of them are there to do. Its so routine you dont think about it. Thanks for reminding me."
"You know, I could use a good lawyer."
Leah, blushed, realizing how she had trapped herself into confessing her new status with the bar. "Were gonna try to get you one."
"How about you?"
"You dont want me."
"My lawyer hasnt answered my calls and I dont want one appointed by the court. I need somebody who believes in my case."
"You need somebody establishedsomebody with connections. I just got my license today."
Blue and Leah road in silence for a long time. He had obviously been stung by her confession and he was thinking so hard Leah could almost hear his brain hum. Finally, he took in a deep breath slowly through his nostrils and let it out through his mouth in a rush.
"I know one thing," he said, "Im not going to get Gidarbed. Thats a fact. If you want my case. I want you to represent meunless youre afraid of what the publicity might do to you and your friend."
"I already told you about Andrea and me. Its gonna take at least a month of wrangling with the bank and the feds, but, as soon as the attorney general can get your bank to disclose your X Channel transactions, the media will be on to us."
"I doubt it," said Blue, confidently.
Blue smiled. "For one thing, if you knew what services I really offered and who was paying for them, you wouldnt have to ask."
Copyright © 1998 by Jasper Garrison
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison