THE BAR CODE
by Gina Gallo, guest columnist [January
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] The smirking whore in the corner made it official. Not only had the
cops made a serious mistake by arresting him; but they’d also thrown him
in the wrong lock-up. What the hell was he doing behind bars with
called him a faggot on the street. Stood glaring at his white Jaguar,
at the flawless cut of his raw silk suit, and could barely contain themselves.
kind of fairy, boy? Ain’t you in the wrong part of town to come playing
your sissy games?
part of town? He had no idea where he was. Confusing directions,
a few wrong turns, and he was lost in the murky lair of West Side gang
turf. Hooded shapes loitered on every corner, watched him with the
confidence of predators circling prey. Faceless voices shouted above
the Saturday night soundtrack of life on dead-end street. How had
he gotten here? He was supposed to be at a wedding...
flashing in his rearview meant help had arrived. The cops could tell
him how to escape. Maybe even escort him, just until he got back
on the freeway.
they yanked him from the car. Dope dealer or pimp, they’d asked,
shoving him over the Jaguar’s hood. Rough hands moved down his body,
up his legs, through his pockets.
search of the Jag produced an ounce of hydroponic weed, the new millennium’s
healthier alternative high to home grown buds.
else you got, kid?” the bigger cop growled. “Better tell us now and
save yourself some trouble.”
was flipping through his wallet. “Says here you’re Delroy Benjamin,
with a Gold Coast address.” He glanced from the driver’s license
to his frightened captive. “Is that you, or didja steal somebody’s
wallet on top of everything else?”
else? What’s everything? I haven’t done anythi--”
you better do is shut your mouth unless we ask a question.”
ask a question!” But it was hard to sound convincing after the cop
found his coke vial. Fear rose like bile, as bitter as his indignation. “I’m Delroy Benjamin. I’ve done nothing wrong and I don’t know how
I got here.”
worry, smartass. Only thing you need to know is where you’re goin’
... to Hell if you don’t change your ways.” A sharp kick to his legs
spread them wider, kept him off-balance as handcuffs were slapped on.
one’s only twenty-three,” one of his tormentors informed the cops who arrived
with the paddy wagon. “A drug czar born every minute.”
is an outrage! I want your names! I’ll have your jobs--”
fist slammed a swinging right hook to guarantee his silence -- and oblivion
-- for the ride to the station.
whore watched as he retched in the corner.
worry, honey. Always happens after an ass-kickin’. It ain’t
nothin’ to be ashamed of.”
for a woman, rough as bourbon strained through broken glass. Squinting
through one swollen eye, Del glimpsed a stubbly shadow beneath the makeup. Perfect. Locked up who knew where, with some cross-dressing she-male,
winking. If this freak tried anything...
baby. It ain’t that kinda party.” A bony hand large enough
to palm a basketball patted the silver wig. “My name’s Capri, and
the only men I’m into is payin’ customers.” Pursing orange-slathered
lips, the whore nodded toward the wooden bench. “Why don’t you get
up outta that mess and rest yourself. No sense sloppin’ in your own
or he, or it -- had a point. And judging by the way Capri’s nose
wrinkled, it wasn’t lust that prompted his suggestion. But Del wasn’t
sure he could move. Half the bones in his body must have been crushed
after the cops stomped him. Whimpering, he struggled to his knees.
I can tell you ain’t a regular ‘round here. What is you, some kinda
college boy?” A gold tooth bared in Capri’s version of a smile. “That’s right, honey. Crawl up on the bench. Catch your breath.”
head was spinning. Christ, his whole body was spinning, and it felt
like he’d be sick again.
your eyes closed. You’ll get over it.” Capri spoke with the
authority of many jailhouse campaigns. “It’s a shame, the way them
cops do the young boys.” Hitching ragged fishnet stockings up coltish
flanks, Capri shook his head. “I bet y’all ain’t done nothin’. Just goin’ about your business, am I right? I seen this happen too
was too scared to speak. Too hurt to do much of anything but lay
there and moan.
didn’t even let you make a phone call, huh?”
remember. There’d been only pain, flashes of light, heckling laughter.
well, that’s how it is ‘round here. Don’t expect no lawyer to be
showing his face, neither. That ain’t how it’s done.”
a moan -- or a mangled question from Del’s bleeding lips?
no such things as ‘rights’ once you’re on this side of the bars, child. Tomorrow morning, you’ll find out just what kinda rights you got. They’ll transfer your ass to County Jail, put you in a cell with some big
ol’ boy gonna make you his bitch, and that’s all she wrote. Nobody
be talking about your rights then.”
it was a moan -- a piteous whine as Del struggled to sit up. “N-no! They can’t--”
can, hon. Happens all the time. ‘Specially to a nice-lookin’
young man like yourself. They see you got some education, maybe a
little money, then they gonna mess with you. Tomorrow morning, you’ll
be bachelorette number three.”
blubbering, choking that preceded his tears. Blood-tinged rivulets
tracked his swollen face.
it’s awful, child. And ain’t nothin’ I can do to help, since I’ll
bond out of here by morning. But there’s a way you can help yourself.”
somebody’s ass?” Del rasped. “Doesn’t look like that’d work.”
eyes slid to the cell door, and the hallway beyond. No one in sight. He minced toward Del’s bench, perched on its opposite end.
Capri leaned toward the sobbing man. “Don’t ever say I told you,
but there’s a trick that’ll make them cops take you right outta this cell
to somewhere you can get help. Play like you’re crazy. Pretend
you’re gonna kill yourself. Makes cops real nervous -- especially
if they know you got family that could start trouble for ‘em.
every time.” Capri ran a scarlet nail down Del's silk shirt.
“Last time I was in here, somebody tore his clothes and strung a noose.
He started screaming like he was gonna end it. Cops came running,
figured he was a nut case, and took him to the County Hospital.”
crazy,” Del protested. “Don’t belong in jail or the psych ward.”
head then, child. Once you get there, the doctors will see you ain’t
crazy. You call your family, get your lawyer, and they take you home. That’s how it works.”
of the garish makeup, the whore looked sincere, was obviously no stranger
to these quarters. Still, it was a far-fetched idea.
if it doesn’t work? What if they just come and kick my ass all over
won't. There’s a police boss in his office out there, and the only
thing he wants is peace and quiet. Somebody acts crazy, they go straight
to hospital.” Glancing toward the hallway, the whore leaned closer. “It's a trick I learned in prison. Now I’m passing it on. Part
of the jail code, y’know? How else you think a fine thing like me
lasted around them big brutish men?”
familiar with the prison social climate, but odds were good Capri wouldn’t
have survived long. Del fingered his shirt, wondering ... they’d
taken his belt and shoelaces.
sure? You’ve seen this work before?”
time, honey. All you got to do is put the noose around your neck
and scream. Watch how fast they’ll come running!”
wasn’t hard to tear. Even with swollen hands, Del ripped it in strips,
tied the square knots that Capri demonstrated. With his cellmate’s
help, he looped it up around the cell’s top cross bar, slid the noose around
his neck. And finally, balanced on the bench to effect his great
winked in benediction, Del’s signal to begin screaming.
take it anymore! It’s over! I don’t want to live!”
echoing off cinderblock walls, it was hard to distinguish the sounds that
followed. Feet thundering down a long hall, shouts from somewhere
... the explosion of wood smashing against concrete -- the bench Capri
kicked out from under him.
position on the other bench, Capri patted his silver wig. He watched as the young
man’s body lurched and twitched, stilling finally like a slack-limbed pendulum. Amazing that they fell for it every time.
back his smirk, Capri’s face settled into an impassive mask. The
blank look he’d use for the cops who now barreled toward his cell ... the
one that meant he knew nothing, had seen and heard nothing.
apathy -- the oldest code of all.
Copyright © 2002 by Gina Gallo
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