Before I knew it I was sitting in the prison parking lot, gripping the steering wheel so tight that my knuckles had turned white. “What am I doing?” I asked myself. Yolanda’s lecture had been more than effective, obviously because I was sitting in the parking lot of this God forsaken facility that housed some of the most broken souls I have ever encountered in my life trying to summon enough courage to go in and do my job.
What was I afraid of? I honestly couldn’t put my finger on what it was about this case that was making me so uneasy. Finally, I shook it off and forced myself out of the car and made my way into the haven of madness where my newest prospect was awaiting my arrival.
“Hey, Bert,” I said to the heavy-set security guard I had gotten to know on a first name basis.
“Ms. Jackson, you back again so soon? I think I’m going to have to make them give you an office up here pretty soon. You got a hell of a piece of work waitin’ for you this time,” she chuckled lightheartedly, as she checked me in. After completing the necessary procedures, she buzzed me in and led me down the long corridor to the visitor’s chamber.
She paused before entering the combination to open the large metal door to the interview room and looked at me with a serious look on her face. “Now don’t be alarmed when you go in, Ms. Jackson,” she warned, “we had to take special precautions with this one. She’s prone to having extremely violent episodes from time to time, so her restraints are a little different from what you are used to seeing.”
I nodded and then she finished entering the code. I took a deep breath and forced myself to walk inside. There before me sat an extremely attractive petite woman, with a dark brown complexion, a short cropped Afro, and she was securely wrapped in a straight jacket and shackled to the table. The restraint contraption was wrapped so tightly around her body that all traces of femininity outside of her face where hidden within in its confines. I tried to mask my shock by feigning a brief coughing episode, but her piercing eyes gazed unflinchingly at me as she watched my every move.
Gingerly, I pulled myself together and sat down at the table. I was unaccustomed to the interviewee being in the room before me. Normally I had a chance to collect my thoughts and get situated before they arrived. Nevertheless, I was determined to remain in control of the situation and go about obtaining my interview in the same fashion that I always had. Never mind the fact that the gruesome photos of this woman’s victim flashed through my mind every ten seconds, and now I was sitting across a table from her. My palms were sweating profusely.
The deafening silence was broken by the slam of the door as Bert returned to her station. The two male guards that remained in the room looked expectantly at me as if to say “get on with it already”.
“Hello, Ms. Langston,” I croaked in a voice I barely recognized, “my name is Vanessa Jackson. As you know, I’ll be conducting the interview that you requested from the Women’s Lib Magazine.”
She smiled briefly and with the subtle smile she offered her eyes softened as she replied, “I know who you are Ms. Jackson, thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I’m sorry if my appearance startled you.”
“Thank you. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting…this,” I stated.
“Well, they seem to think that I am prone to violent episodes so this is the only way they would allow me to meet with you.”
“Are you given to violent episodes?”
“I am given to violence only when violence is required. I believe that violence begets violence, Ms. Jackson. Are you familiar with the principle of an eye for an eye?” she asked pointedly.
“Yes,” I admitted skeptically.
She sat back gingerly in her chair and looked me directly in the eye. “Do you believe in that principle?”
“I guess I believe in it in theory, but I also believe that no one has the right to take the law into their own hands.”
“Is that what you feel I did?” she asked with obvious amusement in her face.
“Yes, I do,” I responded holding her gaze defiantly.
“Well, Ms. Jackson, I really hope that by the time we finish this interview you will be able to see it from my point of view. I don’t expect you to condone what I did, but I feel that justice is in the eye of the beholder. Our legal system is set up to protect the rich and condemn the poor. People with money rule the world, and it was unfortunate for the man that killed my sister that the decision of the United States Justice System was overturned- by me.
“Contrary to popular belief, Ms. Jackson,” she went on, “I am not crazy or insane. I planned that man’s death down to the second, executed my plan flawlessly, and then I turned myself in. If I had to go back I would do it all over again, except if I knew then what I know now I probably wouldn’t turn myself in. Prison is not a fun place, but I am a woman of conviction and I accept the consequences of my actions. But make no mistake, I have no regrets about what I did.”
As I sat there taking in the depth of what she’d just said, I realized that I had probably bitten off more than I could chew with this assignment. Then I thought of Marion Hayes and the promise I had made in honor of her to help these women tell their stories and be their “Voice”. “God doesn’t put more on you than what you can handle,” I though to myself.
I was scared to hear her story and I fully acknowledged that fact. I was afraid what hearing it might do to my character. After gathering every last bit of courage I could muster, I pressed the record button on my recorder, looked Dawn Langston straight in the eye and said, “Ready whenever you are.”
Available in stores on March 8th. Pre-order your copy at www.black-smithenterprises.com.