Looking Into the Crystal Ball – Chapter

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I decided to publish this chapter again for people who are new to Jamie’s story – as I continue to work on the second draft – to create interest. This is the first chapter after the prologue as he learns, from jail  about his public defend and his sentence.

There are other chapters and partial chapters available to read as well as music and videos finished that are for the chapters that have the same title. You can find the music and videos at my website sonniquick.net. This is the video and music for this chapter.

Subscribe to ITFO NEWS for monthly newsletters about the book and other prison issues. It is only by you and people you share this with that will enable me to be successful  This has been a long project putting all of this together. Your support is important and appreciated.

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LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

 

One after another, thoughts kept racing through Jamie’s head. What was going to happen to him? Life would never be the same. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. How many years could they give him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a good day.
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could possibly give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. They would lock him up whether he deserved it or not.
     Depending on your race, the same crime gets different sentencing. Looking around the room at the dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county. That was a laugh.
     Jamie needed someone to talk to. Somebody on his side who would listen and help. He wanted to explain he did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know the guy had a gun until he talked about it in the car. It sounded like he was joking. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he did something to stop him things would be different right now.
    Morgan wrote him a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend who knew an attorney who would take a deposit. Payments could be made on the balance.
     It sounded kinda hokey to him but it was the only thing he had to hope for. Trust him or do nothing. They should have done nothing because the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she could have used herself for the kids.
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him. Morgan sent money she made working at her mom’s store. He knew he was on his own. He would feel better if he could at least see her, but that wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away.
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. How could he control what was happening? He was never going to see his son be born. He wanted go be a father but he could kiss that goodbye. There would be no holding him or being the kind of dad he never had. The cycle of being raised without a father wasn’t going to be broken.
     Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Have a blessed day and all that. There was no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him lately. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do much good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
   “Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
     “If anyone saw you they would think you weak,” he whispered under his breath. They would gang up on him to make him their whipping boy. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Today was supposed to be his day in court but nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. Hs heart was beating in his head and it echoed in his ears.

      Jamie leaned against the grate covering the window and hooked his fingers into the metal and stared outside, watching the day as the seconds and minutes of his life passed by. Everything outside looked normal. He could see people coming and going.
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky as if today were a normal day like all the rest. It wasn’t normal for him. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into that day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all his willpower not to scream.
     “Cummings, you have a visitor.”
    Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled when he repeated it.
     Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?
     “Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”
     “What attorney? Jamie shot back. “I don’t have no attorney.”
     “You do now.”
    Jamie was apprehensive. His mind began to race. Nobody told him someone was coming. Shouldn’t he have been told? How would he have time to help him now? There wasn’t time. He had been in here waiting for months. Why was he only coming to see him at the last minute? He hesitated before he began walking toward the guard.
    “We don’t have all day.” The guard insisted. ” Get a move on it.” Jamie turned around and let the guard cuff his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs. There were some men who would try to hurt the guard or anyone else on staff just for the fun of it.
He half stumbled when the guard gave him a small shove to start him walking. Down the hallway past three closed doors, the door to a small windowless room was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember seeing him before.
     He was a skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at pretending he had hair. Poor dude. Jamie was sure he the public defender assigned to him. Maybe this was the only lawyer job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
     Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem like he enjoyed his job very much. He swept his arm in a gesture over the table which told Jamie to sit down.
    The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power move to show he was the authority in the room.
    The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable but he wasn’t going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze slowly wander from his head to his hands as if he expected Jamie to jump up real quick and attack him.
It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming he would be violent if given the chance. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.
     “You’re in deep trouble, son,” the attorney began his practiced spiel.”You don’t have many options.” Son? He called him son? Was that his way of sounding superior?”
    How many times had this man repeated the same line, Jamie thought. Before he could continue, Jamie tried to talk. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .”
      That was all he managed to get out before this man, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes.
      “I’m not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do.
       “I need to . . .”
      “You don’t need to do anything. I said . . .” He hesitated for a few seconds, “I’m not interested. Tell your story to someone else. All you need to know is, the District Attorney has a case against you and your only option is to plead guilty.”
    He paused for a moment as he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to take a few papers out of his brief case and lay them on the table.
     “You need to sign these papers admitting to guilt. I’m here on behalf of the DA who is offering you a plea deal of forty years. I advise you to take it.”
     Jamie stared him, stunned. What the hell? He was trying to scare him and it was working, Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.
     “They have you dead to5th right, running out of a club after robbing it,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times.
     “The money was found on your friend, in the car you were driving. There is nothing to defend.”
     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. He was being railroaded. One case finished, on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay for an attorney?
     “I’m not going to agree to that. I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I didn’t have anything to do with what my friend did.” He knew it didn’t matter. Being there made him an accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years was beyond anything he thought could happen. “I want to go in front of the judge. No way am I pleasing guilty.”
     “Have it your way.” He put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out.
     Jamie stared after him, speechless. “Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall watching this while thing go down.
He shrugged. He didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down, waiting to see where this was going. There was no point in trying to talk to the guard. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

     “I have another option for you and I advise you to take it,” the attorney instructed impatiently. He began tapping the toe of his shoe on the floor. “There won’t be another one.”
     It was obvious he wanted this signed and done. He didn’t want to waste any more of his day on Jamie.
     “You’re lucky.” He continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.”
Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie wondered what he did to make him dislike him so bad. He obviously didn’t want to defend him even thought it was his job. How many other people had he already said this to today?
     “Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”
    “What charges?” Jamie demanded. He slammed his hands down o.k. the table. The attorney ignored him. “What about wasting years of my life?” he added.
     “I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth without a fight? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove?
      There were four of them that went out to the club that night. He had no idea what they were going through. Were they offered the same deal? He needed answers but there was no one who was going to give them to him.

     The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.
     “You have five minutes.” the attorney told him. I’ll be back for your answer.”

How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something he had no interest in doing. Why? Isn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way.
     Right and wrong didn’t matter. There was no such thing as justice. Another body to fill a prison bed. The only thing that mattered was locking up as many people as they could. Not just any people – black people. They went after Hispanics and other minorities, too.
     The government wanted to fill the prisons with poor people who couldn’t afford to protect themselves or pay for a real attorney. Racism toward blacks keeps growing. Why? Because they think black people wanted to knock white people off their pedestal of superiority? But most blacks and minorities only wanted to survive and raise their families. They wanted equality. They weren’t going to get it.
     Jamie didn’t understand it? He didn’t know all the history. He did know what he witnessed, though, and he heard the stories people told about why they were in jail.
     There was no way for him to come out on top of this. He was screwed no matter what he did. If he fights he loses.
     Jamie started to stand up but the guard glared at him with a look that said, “Don’t even try.” He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long would seventeen years feel. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now. He was only twenty- one.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Possibly give up his entire life? He didn’t know what other charges they could add. They could make up anything they wanted.
     He closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up ask thought of raising his son. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other.
     Morgan would have to go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get parole.
     So many unanswered questions running through his head at the same time. His five minutes are over. He heard the door handle click when it unlocked. The attorney stepped back into the room.
     “What’s your answer?” Jamie looked down, reached out his hand and signaled with his fingers for the papers.

 

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Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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I’m doing some editing. I have found that as I learn about writing and later go back to things I’ve written. So many mistakes glare out at me. It might be grammar but it is usually sentence structure or I had written something totally unnecessary and twisted it in a way that didn’t fully explain what I was trying to say.

I was naïve in the beginning thinking I could write something and publish it when I was finished. After all, I was writing blog posts, right? Wrong. It would be like learning the lines and spaces on a music staff and thinking I would be able to write music. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what I know and I’m still a long way to what I think is my potential.

Even though I’m doing a second draft, I have gone back a number of times and re-edited something I thought needed shaking up.  When I’m done with this draft and someone professional looks at it, I’m sure there will be much more to do. I’ve read the beginnings of too many lousy, self-edited and self-published books that I’m sure the author thought was good enough, or perhaps they were too broke to pay someone. Maybe they had their best friend read it, and didn’t care enough not to throw the time it took to get this far down the drain, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Many people have read bits and pieces of chapters I have posted but really don’t know how it all got started, so I decided to publish the prologue. Why now? Because I just edited it – again – and made a lot of changes that I hope will make parts of the book fall into place better.  If you want to comment and tell me what you think I’d like that.  I need feedback from people who read what I write. If something doesn’t read right – tell me. When you are done, subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you up to date and let you know when it is – FINALLY – published.

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Morgan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman. I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom. I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m really sorry about the phone calls too. I’m really sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again. Love you Mom

P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always, Jamie

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The year was 2006. My life was busy. I had a store near Mallory Square in Key West where the cruiseships docked and I loved my life. I lived where people go for vacation, but I didn’t have to leave. I could stay. I was happy.
Sometimes events happen in life that create a turning point we can look back on. I call them ‘Sharp turns to the left’. In the midst of my happy life, a monkey wrench crashed through it on the night I received a phone call from my daughter Morgan, who had recently told me was pregnant. Oh my, my life was about to get hit with a one-two punch, but it wouldn’t be the first time. After she explained what her problem was, I brought her and the children, ages six and eight, to Key West from Texas on a Greyhound bus.
They arrived at my home and moved into a small dollhouse sized apartment I had in the back. There was a loft, which gave her a place for the children to sleep. The problem? Her boyfriend, Jamie, had been arrested and was sitting in a county jail unsure of what was going to happen to his life. The only sure thing, he wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child. He didn’t have an attorney and would be provided a public defender. I didn’t know then that having a public defender who works for the system was usually like having no attorney at all. It didn’t look good for him.
Even though it was a difficult time, I enjoyed having my daughter near me. The bonus was being able to spend time with my grandchildren. We had lived too far away from each other when they were younger, so even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, there were still things to be happy about.
It was the only option, them to the Keys. I had helped her through the first two pregnancies as well. In addition to the emotional stress caused by what was happening to them, we had to find her a baby doctor. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to find an OB-GYN on an island that was only a little larger than one mile by three miles in diameter. We called every doctor in town and was turned down by all of them.
Morgan was in the latter part of her second trimester and no doctor would take on the responsibility of a patient this late in her pregnancy, because she had problems with her second pregnancy. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so difficult.
We had to start looking on the mainland, in Miami. With only one more number left to call, finally a doctor said yes. It was such a relief. We were starting to get desperate. I didn’t know what we would do if we couldn’t find one. When the doctor’s office said they would take her on I could finally relax. Morgan and I looked at each other and let out a long slow breath. We did it. Hurdle number one.
I knew it was going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive, which made each trip a hard day for Morgan. It became even more difficult as the pregnancy progressed. As she grew bigger she felt every bump on the one hundred and five mile, two-lane road that connected the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom at Key West. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made, as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.
The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. The days were long but she had a date they were going to induce labor to make sure she would have her doctor delivery the baby, which was born at 4 AM. It was worth it. I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. No joke. He was flawless. Even the nurses gathered around and stared at him. Not one baby wrinkle.
Jamie had a son. He was given his father’s name. He wouldn’t know yet that he would not be able to hold this child for a very long time. He would only see him through glass the few times he was brought in to visit. Having your child be so close yet never be able to touch him became a numbing grief that would be hard to bear. He couldn’t find a place in his brain to put it and it weighed him down constantly.
It was during one of the trips to Miami, before Jamie, Jr. was born, that the letter from Jamie arrived, addressed to me. It was waiting for me when we got back home. That was odd, I thought. Why would he write to me? I had briefly talked to him on the phone a few times and asked him how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.
I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. For Morgan to have another baby, thinking the father would be there to help, and now you had another child to raise alone, was a hard life to face. But Morgan was a strong woman and a good mother. I knew she’d find a way to make it work. She had no choice.
I wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Jamie that night. Kids, no matter what their age, never told the whole truth to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to explain without getting in trouble. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan was her mother’s daughter. Her life had been one drama event after the other since she was twelve. She was a difficult teenager and those events happened a lot more often than I could deal with. She kept trying to grow up too fast, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered until it was too late.
Jamie seemed to be good for Morgan. At 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and good manners, I liked him. He was nice. I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids who were living with my x-husband’s family. It didn’t matter to me that Jamie he was black. They seemed happy and that was the important thing.
He was arrested a couple months after we met. For a long time I had no idea what really happened that night. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. I made plenty myself at that age that would come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. You’ll find out about that later. How much of his life would be taken away to teach him a lesson, and ‘pay his debt to society’? Are there any other ulterior motives going on that would affect how much time he’d be given?
The law of cause and effect is very strict and there is a reason why things happen to us. I had no idea back then what all this was going to mean to my life. We have no other way to deal with things except in the order they appear, and what we do then will bring more effects to deal with. Life is a constant learning process whether we wanted to learn anything or not.
The day after the arrest Morgan went to the police station to drop off his seizure medication for epilepsy. They wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and that can take weeks before they are allowed a visit.
After she handed over the medication they rushed her out of the building. She tried to press them for details, but they wouldn’t tell her anything. As she left the building and began to walk down the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, and looked back at the jail. She glanced up, her eyes looking at the second floor. She could see him staring though the window at her. They didn’t signal each so no one would see and move him away from the window. They stood like that, looking at each other.
Jamie finally put his hand up on the grate that covered the window as if he wanted to reach through it to hold on to her one last time. He didn’t care if someone was watching. He looked so sad. At this point, Morgan still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew she had to make a decision for herself very soon. She had a baby growing inside her and that was her priority.
Morgan knew she quickly had to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. Jamie was driving it the night before. After the arrest it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher and higher. She needed to call her mom who was going to be upset. A lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought.

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After Morgan arrived I knew they needed to talk, but I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking I was mad at him. I assured him I wasn’t. I didn’t want to end up with a phone bill that would be hundreds of dollars. He was unaware of the cost, I’m sure. He just wanted me to know he was sorry.
The only thing I knew about prisons was what I learned in movies and TV shows. I have learned since that most of that was only the propaganda the government wanted you to believe. The truth wasn’t very important. I would end up learning more than I wanted to know, but still I kept digging to learn the truth. Once I knew about it, I couldn’t forget it. Once it got completely embedded in my mind I knew I needed to help people understand.
It didn’t happen right away. Morgan let me know occasionally how he was doing. She lived with me until the baby was a year old and then took the children back to Texas. It was heartbreaking to help them load their belongings into her car and watch them drive off. My life settled back into the old routine and life went on. I still had three years before my world fell apart and I had to leave Key West and go north. Another sharp turn was brewing. Jamie became a part of my life in a way I never would have thought.
But this story is not about what happened to me, even though my life got wrapped up in it. My life affected his. This is Jamie’s story, a sad story about entering the system, juvenile detention, for the first time at the young age of seventeen for something he didn’t do and having few chances to live a life as an adult on the outside.
He was growing into a man in his thirties, separated from everything he loved, and never having the necessary life experiences to learn from. That is how inmates get institutionalized. The routine of prison life becomes the norm. Functioning in society is sometimes too difficult and it becomes a form of PTSD, like when soldiers come back from a war zone.
As the years passed he feared I would I would stop writing, but I would never do that. He became my best friend and I could tell him anything that was going on in my life, but If I waited too long to answer a letter the fear would come back. He would be afraid again that I had gone away and was angry at him. Why shouldn’t he feel that way? Was else was answering his letters? Where was his lifeline, his support?
I knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life because things don’t happen by dropping on your head for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen or the part he would play in my life.
Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later. Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you entered the system.
His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Depression set in. It became rare to get an answer to a letter. How was he to buy hygiene products or paper and stamps?
It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was. The sum of anyone’s life isn’t determined by a stupid decision. Whatever it was, it was done.   People make mistakes. No one was hurt. I re-entered the picture about a year and a half after he went in. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card to let him know Ii was thinking of him. To me he was family because he was my grandson’s father. Our letter exchanges began.

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To begin the story, settle in. Relax. We have a good bit of time to cover. Hopefully you will see things a little different by the time we are done. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. Listen to some of the music I provided. You are entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that hopefully you will never get a real chance to see.

 

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Chapter – Looking Into The Crystal Ball

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(Sonni’s note:  It has been awhile since I posted any chapter edits so I thought for Christmas I would post one. This is fictionalized from the facts as I know them. The thoughts and descriptions are my own. Below is the music I posted earlier to go on the next album with this chapter. Subscribe to ITFO News to keep up with what is happening. Merry Christmas!)

LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

Thoughts were racing through Jamie’s head. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. What could they do to him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this was going to be a bad day. 
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. He had nothing to do but talk to other men waiting for their court date, too. Some had been waiting for years. He knew he was probably going to get locked up no matter what he said but he wanted a chance to tell the court his side of the story.
    Looking around the room at dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county? That was a laugh.
     Jamie needed someone to talk to who would listen and help. He did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He went out to party and have a good time. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know this friend had a gun until he talked about it in the car. He thought it was a joke. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he had done something to stop him.
     Morgan wrote a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend. He knew an attorney who would take a deposit and pay off what was owed. 
     It sounded kinda hokey to him. She they trust him or do nothing? They should have done nothing because the friend and the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she needed for herself and the kids. 
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him, so Morgan sent money she earned working at her mom’s store.  He would feel better if he could at least see her. That wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away. 
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. He had no control over what happening. He wasn’t going to see his infant son when he was born. He wanted to be a father more than anything but he could kiss that goodbye. He wouldn’t be able to hold him or be the kind of dad he had wanted, too. He couldn’t break the cycle of being raised without a father.
     Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Everybody did, he guessed. It was the only thing to believe in and he didn’t know anyone who didn’t think  God was up there overseeing things. Have a blessed day and all that. He had no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do no good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks. 

“Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop. 

“If anyone saw you they would gang up on you,” he whispered to himself. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Even though Jamie was supposed to be in court today nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. He could hear his heart beating in his head and it echoed in his ears. He leaned against the grate covering the window. Hooking his fingers into the metal he stared outside, looking down at the sidewalk where he saw Morgan that first day when she brought his meds. He watched the seconds and minutes of his life pass by. He could see people coming and going as if it was just a normal day. 
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky. It wasn’t normal for Jamie. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into the day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all of his willpower not to hit the window with his fists.

<<< >>>

“Cummings, you have a visitor.” 
     Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled.
     Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?

“Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”

“What attorney?” Jamie shot back.  “I don’t have no attorney.”

“You do now.”

     Jamie hesitated. Nobody told him someone was coming. Would he help him? There wasn’t much time. He had been in the jail for months, why was he coming to see him at the last minute? He slowly walked toward the guard.

“We don’t have all day.” The guard barked. “Get a move on it.” 

     Jamie turned around while he put cuffs on his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs.
     The guard gave him a small shove to get him walking. Looking down the hallway, the door to a small holding cell was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember ever seeing him before today.
     A skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks was waiting for him. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at looking like he had hair. Poor dude, it was no wonder he was a public defender.  Maybe this was the only job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
     Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem at all like he was in the helping mood. 
He swept his arm in a gesture over the table telling Jamie to sit down. 
     The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘Don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power trip to show he was the authority in the room.
     The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable with the silence but he wasn’t  going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze wonder from Jamie’s head to his hands as if he expected him to jump up any minute and attack him.
      It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming all black man were born violent. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.

“You’re in deep trouble, son.” the attorney began his practiced speech. “You don’t have many options.”

     Son? He called him son? Was he talking down at him? Before he could say anything else Jamie chimed in. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .” 

     It was all he managed to get out before this man, whatever his name was, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes. 

“I am not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do. 

“I need to . . .”

“You don’t need to do anything.” The attorney paused for a few seconds. “You need to listen to me.”

“Tell your story to someone else,” he continued.

“All you need to know is . . . the District Attorney has an airtight charge against you and if you’re smart you’ll listen to what I have to say.” 
     The attorney paused again after he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to open his briefcase and take out a few papers. He laid them on the table in front of Jamie.

“You need to sign your name admitting to guilt.” He put his finger on the line where Jamie was supposed to sign.

“I’m here to offer you a plea of forty years. You will only be going to court to admit to the judge you are guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

     Jamie looked up and stared him, stunned. This man was trying to scare him and it worked. Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.

“They have you dead to right. You ran out of a club after robbing it at gunpoint,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times. 

“The money was found with your friend in the car you were driving. There is no defense for you.”

     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. ” I am not going to agree to that.” It was hard to keep his voice from shaking. “I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I did not have anything to do with what my friend did. That is why I ran.”

     He knew it didn’t matter. He had already been tried and found guilty. Nothing he said now would matter. Being there at the club made him an instant accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years would end his life.

“I want to go in front of the judge. I am not pleading guilty.” 

     The attorney put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out. Jamie stared after him, speechless. 

“Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall. He shrugged, but he didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down. There was no point trying to talk to the guard anyway. He didn’t know anything. They waited together in silence. The guard moved and stood at the open door. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

“I have another option for you. I sincerely advise you to take it. It is the best you are going to get.” The attorney put his briefcase on the table, opened it and took out a different set of papers. “There won’t be another one,” he added.      
     It was obvious this attorney wasn’t going to waste anymore of his precious time. Most likely he had other inmates to intimidate. Jamie wondered if he got paid a flat fee for every signed plea deal he accomplished because he certainly wanted this signed and delivered as fast as he could. He didn’t care what was best for Jamie. His motivation was his paycheck.

“You’re lucky,” the man continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.” Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie took a second to wonder why he disliked him so bad, or did he talk like this to every client he was paid to intimidate?

“Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time and the state’s money, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”

“What charges?” Jamie demanded. The attorney ignored him.

Jamie was upset. “What about wasting years of my life?”
      He was being railroaded. He knew it and the attorney knew it. One case finished and on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay a real attorney? Did he enjoy making sure every person assigned to him ended up pleading guilty?

“I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth in five minutes? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove? 
     There were four of them that went out to the club that night. If he had known what his friend planned to do he would not have gone. Yes, he and Morgan needed money but he just got out of juvenile detention that year after four years of being locked up. He didn’t want to get locked up again on a felony charge with a baby on the way. Did they offered all of them the same deal? He needed answers, but there was no one who was going to explain them.
     The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.

“You have five minutes.” the attorney said. I’ll be back for your answer.”
      How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? Where was the attorney going when he left the room? Who was he talking to? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something that was not going to happen no matter what he said in five minutes. Why? Wasn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way. This was justice?
     Right or wrong didn’t matter. No one was owed justice no matter what the wording said on the Bill of Rights. There was no way for him to come out of this without paying with many years of his life. He was screwed no matter what answer he gave. If he fights it, he loses more years.
      Jamie started to stand but the guard shook his head and glared at him with a look that said, ‘Don’t even try.’ He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long was seventeen years? He couldn’t imagine. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Maybe give up his whole life? At least he would know he tried. What other charges they could add? They could make up anything they wanted and knew he didn’t have an attorney who would fight them.
     Jamie closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up all thought of raising him. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other, not really. 
     Morgan would go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get paroled. 
     So many unanswered questions were running through his head at the same time. His five minutes were over. He heard the heels of the attorney’s shoes as he neared the open door. As he walked back into the room he asked, “What’s your answer?”

Jamie looked down at the table, and at the same time reached out his hand for the papers. The attorney smiled.

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