What I Did For Love - Chapter 13

Chapter 13: Prisoner of Love!
 
True love is not measured by what we say.
 
True love is measured by what we do.
 
Anonymous
 
Ohh-kay, I was seeing things here! I blinked at the McDonald's bag on the dresser, my eyes obviously playing tricks on my poor, alcohol soaked brain. I rubbed my eyes and looked again but that didn't help any, so I squinched my eyes tight shut and shook my head, hard, trying to clear my vision. All I managed to do was make myself dizzy. Okay, dizzier. My head pounded, my stomach rolled, and when I opened my eyes, the bag was still there anyway. What the hell? How did it get here? Where did it come from? What was going on? Oh, God! I felt like crap and I was so confused.
 
I sat down, really slowly, in the little chair at the dressing table and held my aching head in my hands. I mean, there had to be a logical explanation, right? It's just that finding it while I was this hung over might be an issue. Maybe I was still drunk? Maybe I was hallucinating? Oh, wait! I know! I was still asleep! This was all part of the dream. That's what it was and when I really woke up, there wouldn't be a McDonald's bag sitting on the dresser. Problem solved! I looked over at the bed to see if I was still in it. Nope. It was empty. Dammit!
 
I really shouldn't complain about the dream though, 'cause let's face it, as dreams go, this was probably the best, most realistic dream I'd ever had in my whole entire life, including all the ones I'd had about Johnny Depp. This was the kind of dream you dream about having and I sure hope that I remember it all when I wake up. I should probably write down all the details, huh?
 
You know, I don't know that I actually ever had sex like that while I was awake. Okay, okay maybe once or twice, but that was only with 'you know who'. Considering the current state of our relationship, the possibility of us ever having sex again was like … slim to the infinite power of none. So I guess I shouldn't ***** about it and just take what I could get when I could get it. Even if it was only dream sex. Right? But let me tell you, that was some phenomenal dream sex. And that ******? Don't get me started! It went on forever! It was all so real that I thought for sure I'd find some kind of telltale signs on my body. Unfortunately there wasn't anything to find ... nothing at all but that extra roll of fat around my waist from all my recent stess eating! Dammit!
 
Hey! Could you even have ******* in dreams? Or was it like when you're dreaming about falling and you wake up just before you actually go 'splat'? Well, whatever. With Joe locked up, it looked like my sex life was gonna have a loooong dry spell. I guess I'd better stop on my way home and pick up a shower massager… six speed, turbo model.
 
I sat with my head propped in my hand until the tantalizing aroma of all that lovely French fry grease finally registered in my still-fuzzy brain and pretty much convinced me that I had to be awake. Still, I approached the McDonald's bag cautiously, like it was filled with snakes, just in case. I'd already had one snake-filled bag in my life, and dream or reality, no way in hell did I want another. After all, almost everything bad that had happened to me in the last couple of months had been because of Eddie Abruzzi. Even dead he'd managed to screw up my life. I wouldn't put it past him to invade my dreams, too.
 
I watched the bag for a minute, but it didn't move so I flinked it with my finger and jumped back. I thought I heard the snakes hiss and tried to run, tripped over my own feet, and landed on my ***. Then I realized it was just ice rattling, so I gave myself a mental head slap for being a wuss, sucked it up, and opened the bag. Extra large Coke and jumbo fries … no snakes.
 
Okay, here's another thing. There weren't a whole lot of people who knew about 'The Cure'. Mary Lou, Lula, and Connie didn't even know I had tied one on last night, so none of them would have brought it. Joe was locked up and I seriously doubt they'd let him out just so he could bring me McDonald's. Cross him off the list, too. And Ranger? Well, apparently he only visited me in my dreams these days, and anyhow, he was in Miami. I heaved a deep sigh, picked up the bag with two fingers and took it downstairs with me to the one person who might be able to solve the mystery.
 
My mother was standing at the kitchen sink, scrubbing a small mountain of potatoes and singing along to her i-pod, Bad Moon on the Rise, I think. Hopefully that wasn't some kind of premonition. My life was bad enough right now and I didn't know how much more I could take without having a complete break down. I was scared and confused and more than a little lost.
 
I stood in the doorway, closed my eyes, and inhaled the aroma of pot roast cooking in the oven, and pineapple upside-down cake cooling on the counter. All my anxiety seemed to fade away, and I felt myself starting to calm down. I always thought I was pretty lucky that way. Other people took Xanax or Valium … all I ever needed was comfort food.
 
"Oh, good you're up," Mom said when she saw me standing there. "I was beginning to think you went back to bed." She looked me over and gave me a nod of approval. "You look a lot better than you did last night. How do you feel? Do you want me to make you a sandwich to go with your Coke and fries?" She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and pointed at the fridge.
 
"You know about this?" I squeaked, holding up the bag. "You brought this upstairs?"
 
My mother gave me the same look she used on Val and me when we were kids and asked dumb questions. Okay, so she used it on me because Val was Princess Perfect and never asked dumb questions. "Good grief," Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head. "How do you think it got up to your room, elves?" I was instantly ten years old all over again.
 
"But Mom," I whined, "where did it come from? Did somebody bring it? I mean … you didn't go out and get it, did you?"
 
My mother gave me The Look again. "Now Stephanie, why would I go all the way to McDonald's and buy you that," she pointed at the bag, her lip curled in disgust, "when right here, in my own kitchen, I could make you a decent homemade breakfast? You could have had anything you wanted … pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs. But nooooo! You had to have Coke and fries." She snorted and poured herself a cup of coffee, then sat down at the kitchen table. "What kind of a way is that to start your day, even if it is almost four o'clock?" she muttered.
 
"So where …" I started.
 
"He asked me to call him this morning, so I did." She busied herself adding sugar and cream to the cup while I stared at her in total confusion.
 
"Him?" I asked, suddenly suspicious. "Him who?"
 
My mother sighed and put her cup down on the table. "Good grief, Stephanie. What's the matter with you today? Maybe you should go back to bed and I'll call you when dinner's ready." She cut herself a tiny sliver of the coffee cake that sat on a paper doily on a cake plate.
 
"Mom! Who?" I demanded.
 
"Well, Carlos, of course. And he asked me to call him Carlos. Isn't that sweet?" She just smiled and took a sip of her coffee.
 
"Carlos? Ranger? Ranger asked you to call him?" I was dumbfounded, not entirely surprising, all things considered. "When did you talk to him?"
 
"Last night, when he stopped by," she said like I should have known.
 
"Last night?" I was having difficulty processing this information. "Ranger was here last night?" I could hear something like hysteria tinge my voice. "When? What time?" I practically fell into the chair across from my mother.
 
"Right after you went upstairs and passed out. I know you were upset about Joseph, but really Stephanie! Getting drunk certainly doesn't help matters. Every neighbor on the block heard you come in, singing at the top of your lungs! And the way you ******** off your clothes while you stumbled through the house … right in front of your father and grandmother! Honestly!" She turned and shook a finger at me. "Those thong things you wear are just scandalous. Now your Grandmother wants to go and buy some for herself. What happens if she puts them out on the wash line? The neighbors might think that they belong to me!" She shuddered and looked heavenward. I could practically hear the, 'Why me, God?'
 
I was ready to pull my hair out. "Mom! Forget the damn thong. What did Ranger want?"
 
"Don't you curse at me, young lady! He wanted to talk to you, but I couldn't very well let him go upstairs and wake you up."
 
I put a finger to my twitching eye as she looked at me over the rim of her cup. "Why not?" I asked as calmly as I could muster.
 
"Stephanie! You were naked! What kind of girl would he think you were if he found out you slept in the nude?"
 
The same kind of girl who was living with Morelli and having balls to the wall sex every chance she got? I rubbed my hands over my face. "Did he happen to mention what he wanted to talk to me about?"
 
"He said he was going back to Miami," she shrugged. "I suppose he wanted to say good-bye."
 
I had to wonder if he did say good-bye … in a very up close and personal way. "So what about this?" I shook the bag in front of her face.
 
"Carlos said that he'd send something special to help you with the hang over you were going to have today, and that I should call him as soon as I heard you moving around. So, I did and a few minutes later a very nice young man showed up at the door with that," she nodded toward the bag. "I put it on the dresser while you were in the shower. You better eat it before it gets cold."
 
I took a long slurp of the Coke and shoveled fries into my mouth. I swear I could feel the caffeine and salt and grease coursing through my veins right to my brain.
 
"Really, that Carlos is so nice and polite. Such lovely manners, obviously well brought up. That jacket he was wearing was cashmere and his car ... You know Stephanie, you could do a lot worse." Uh-oh, I could see the wheels turning in her head. Never a good thing. "Too bad he's in Miami." She sipped her coffee and nibbled on her cake thoughtfully. What do you want to bet that my mother is planning something?
 
"If you only knew, Mom," I sighed. Yeah, if she only knew what nice, polite Carlos had in mind for me she'd probably have a stroke. Well, I guess the McDonald's mystery was solved … sort of. Now all I had to do was find out what the hell Ranger was up to…

 
I felt a lot better after I finished the fries and Coke. Probably I should have had them before I tried to figure out what was going on. At least my brain wouldn't have been as fuzzy and maybe I wouldn't have been so confused. Of course, confused was my normal state of being these days.
 
Mom spread newspaper over the table and put the colander of scrubbed potatoes between us, handed me a vegetable peeler and the two of us got to work. I peeled, she quartered and plopped them in a pot of water. This was about as close to cooking as she let me get in her kitchen, and I wasn't gonna complain. At least we knew the smoke alarms wouldn't be going off.
 
My mother was a creature of habit and subtlety has never been her strong suit. The way she kept sighing was a dead giveaway that there was something on her mind that she didn't know how to bring up. She opened her mouth a couple of times, but nothing came out. I decided to give her a break for once; after all, making me pot roast and pineapple upside down cake was the Plum family equivalent of her climbing up on the roof and yelling to the world that she loved me.
 
"Okay, what's the matter, Mom?" I glanced up at her as I picked up another potato.
 
Mom took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, like she was trying to steel herself. "I know that this whole Abruzzi situation has been terrible for you what with you being questioned and being a suspect, and then Joe being arrested and charged with this horrible crime. I don't want to add to those problems but there have been some very … ugly … rumors being spread around town. Your father and I decided that you needed to hear about them from us, so that you wouldn't be blindsided."
 
"Mom, this is the Burg. Somebody always has something to say, butting in where they don't belong about stuff they don't know anything about. It happens all the time. What's the big deal?" I shrugged it all off.
 
Mom took a deep breath. "Because it's all coming from Angie Morelli! She was going to be your mother-in-law! Family, for God's sake. She's going around town telling anyone who'll listen to her that it's all your fault that Joseph is in jail. She's saying that if he wasn't associated with 'a woman like you', none of this would have happened. She's saying that you lured Joseph into this trouble, that you used sex to get him to take the blame for this murder and to cover for you." My mother was outraged.
 
I snorted out a laugh. "Yeah, I'm a regular Mata Hari, all right! A real femme fatale."
 
"Stephanie, this isn't funny!" She got up and grabbed the coffee pot. "Your reputation is at stake here. She's telling people that you took advantage of him." She filled a cup for me and thumped the pot down on the table.
 
"Right. Like I lured him into his father's garage when I was six, and seduced him on the floor of the Tasty Pastry when I was sixteen, and wrote about myself on all those walls." My mother's eyes rolled so far back in her head that I was afraid she'd pass out.
 
"Oh God, don't remind me!" My mother propped her head in her hands. "To make matters worse, Bella is claiming you used witchcraft!"
 
Okay, I really had to laugh at that one. "Oh yeah," I hooted. "Like Bella has a lot of room to talk, running around town having visions, threatening to curse people and give them the evil eye! Nobody believes that crap, Mom. You can ask all Joe's neighbors. They all keep an eye on everything we do. They'll be happy to tell you! I hardly ever dance naked around the backyard anymore, and I've cut way down on the animal sacrifices!" I rolled my eyes.
 
At least that made Mom smile. "Angie's saying it's your wanton gypsy blood," she said with a sigh as she rubbed her forehead, eyeing the pantry. I could practically hear Johnny Walker calling her name. Instead I got her a couple of Advil.
 
"Well, they covered all the angles, that's for sure. I'm either a Mata Hari, a gypsy, a witch or a ***** … take your pick." I stopped peeling, put my elbows on the table and propped my chin in my hands. "Look Mom, this whole thing started because I was looking for Evelyn and Annie Soder. But I was just trying to help Mabel. It wasn't like I went looking for trouble." God knows I didn't have to go looking for it; trouble had a way of finding me all by itself.
 
"I know that!" Mom's face flushed a little. "And so does she!" Mom was on a roll and there was no stopping her. "I don't know who that woman thinks she is. The Queen Bee forgets the reputation her son, Saint Joseph, had before he settled down with you. He was headed down the same path as the rest of the Morelli men. You saved him from that, Stephanie! Why, you were the best thing that ever happened to him!"
 
Wow! All I could do was sit and stare at her. It seemed that every conversation I had with my mother these days just got more and more bizarre. After years of being told that Joe was my last chance at the happiness of marriage, all of a sudden I'd become his salvation. My head started to pound again and I went in search of the Advil, for me this time.
 
When Mom picked up the paring knife and stabbed a potato with a vengeance, I reached over and snagged it out of her hand, figuring we'd both be a lot safer. "You proved him innocent the last time he was charged with murder,"she ranted. "That seems to be another nasty habit of his that his mother has conveniently forgotten! She has some nerve badmouthing you!" She wagged her finger at me. "I absolutely forbid you to marry into that family. They don't deserve you!"
 
I think I just heard hell freezing over. "Stick and stones, Mom. Angie and Bella can't hurt me."
 
"You might as well know it all. This morning I was at the butcher's, for the pot roast, you know," my mother huffed. "Angie said that she was going to change the locks on Joseph's house and put you out on the street." She picked up the vegetable peeler and slammed it back down on the table. "I'm so angry I could spit! Just who does she think she is?"
 
I leaned across the table and patted my mother's hand. "Don't worry, Mom. If Angie tries to pull anything she'll be in for a big surprise. I have Joe's power of attorney. I make all the decisions about the house and the bills and Bob and stuff. She can't throw me out, honest."
 
"Oh," my mother blinked at me and all her anger seemed to fade away. A very wicked smile slowly spread across her face. "Hmmmmm. Someone should probably tell her that." I had absolutely no doubt who that someone would be. "Well, enough talk," Mom pushed up from the table. "We have to get busy and finish making dinner. You do the rest of the potatoes, dear. I'll start on the glazed carrots." I watched her bustle around the kitchen, laughing to herself, glad I could make my mom so happy.
 
Well, I was mostly right. When I got home after dinner, it was clear that someone had been in the house. All the food that Angie brought over and put in the freezer was gone, the kitchen cabinets and the pantry were pretty much bare. I'm sure that she thought I was too stupid to feed myself and was hoping I'd starve to death. Good thing Mom had packed up three days worth of food for me.
 
Angie had taken the crocheted blanket and the throw pillows off of the couch, the candy dish from the coffee table, and the picture of the Last Supper off the wall in the dining room. In fact, everything that she had given us since I had moved in was gone, right down to the copy of Cooking for Dummies that she gave me for Christmas. At least she left Bob and his food alone.
 
I looked around the empty kitchen for a minute, then pulled out the phone book and looked up locksmiths. I think tomorrow I was gonna have the locks changed on the house. Won't my mother be thrilled?
 
My life fell into a dull routine. I went back to work for Vinnie but thanks to the training and experience I got at RangeMan, I was able to leave the low bond skips to Lula, and take most of the mid-range ones myself. Of course, we still helped each other out when we needed it; after all, we were partners. I was able to put food in the fridge and pay the bills, so what if I wasn't happy. How could I be with Joe locked up?
 
My friends rallied around me and tried to make sure I wasn't too lonely. I went to dinner at Eddie's house, to the movies with Big Dog, and Carl asked me to his cousin's wedding, almost crippling me by stepping on my toes when we danced. There were a lot of girls' nights, both in and out. Every once in a while I went to Shorty's for Friday night pool and pizza with the Merry Men, but at the end of the day, I always came home to Bob and an empty house. As the days became weeks, and it looked like the weeks would turn into months, I got more and more depressed.
 
Bob mourned Joe, too. How do you explain to man's best friend that his best friend hadn't abandoned him? Bob went off his feed and lost weight. His normally exuberant, playful personality disappeared too. He even stopped eating the furniture and just lay on Joe's side of the couch all day watching the Food Network. He liked Emeril the best. I could tell because his tail thumped every time Emeril yelled, 'Bam!'
 
If I had been smart I would have bought stock in Tastykake and at least gained some benefit from all those empty calories I was scarfing down. I'm pretty sure the factory had to up the daily quota of Butterscotch Krimpets they manufactured to make up for the dent I put in the local market. The fact that my *** grew in direct proportion to the number of Krimpets I ate really shouldn't have come as any surprise, but it did. If I wasn't careful, pretty soon I'd be waddling after my skips instead of running.
 
Ben & Jerry, the two other most important men in my life weren't hurting either. Like I said before, all I ever needed was comfort food. Too bad that, like any addict, I needed more and more to achieve the same effect. Too depressed to do anything about it, surrounded by Krimpet wrappers and empty B&J containers, I'd just lay down with Bob and fall asleep on the couch every night, just waiting for Tuesdays.
 
I lived for Tuesdays because that's when I got to see Joe. I got to spend every Tuesday morning, from eight to nine, with him. Well, to be more precise, I got to sit on one side of a nasty, chicken wire reinforced Plexiglas window and talk to Joe on the crappy plastic phone that was attached to the disgusting slime green wall. I wasn't so sure the slime green was actually paint. But let's not go there.
 
The first time I went to visit him, the phone stuck to my hand when I tried to hang it up. I tried real hard not to think about what that 'glue' was, but from then on, I always brought a little travel pack of anti-bacterial wipes with me. After all, a girl couldn't be too careful. I guess I shouldn't *****. At least I could get up and leave but poor Joe was stuck there. No pun intended.
 
I'd been mailed a long list of conditions, dress codes, rules, regulations, no-nos, and hoops I had to jump through just to get to see Joe. I mean, I understand about security and all, but this was ridiculous. There were all kinds of forms to be filled out and clearances to be gotten. I'd had to sign away my rights to privacy so that my purse, vehicle, and person could be searched, ********, dumped, patted down, dismantled, wanded, scanned, or anything else the guards decided was necessary. After catching a look at the female guards who'd be doing any ***** searches, I only brought the bare necessities into the prison with me, or so I thought.
 
I guess I was used to the more relaxed atmosphere of the jail in Trenton. For my first visit with Joe, I made the near fatal mistake of carrying my purse. I'm pretty sure you know what my purse looks like. It's this big black hole where all sorts of things have been sucked in and disappeared, never to be seen again. When the guards searched it, not only did I almost get booted out on my *** … permanently, I almost got arrested! Seems they found a 'suspicious object' stuck to the bottom of the bag. When they scanned it, it turned out to be two half melted Lifesavers, an old gum wrapper, part of a used Kleenex and a bullet, all stuck together.
 
The guards didn't understand that this was the purse equivalent of belly button lint and they totally freaked out. Sirens went off, the whole prison went into lock down mode, guards were barring the doors, SWAT guys came pouring into the room; I was jumped by half a dozen guards, thrown to the floor, cuffed and carted off. It was humiliating!
 
I guess they thought I was trying to sneak weapons into the prison or something, but once they realized that I used to be The Bombshell Bounty Hunter and had a reputation for getting myself into screwy situations, they cut me some slack. I'd had to do a lot of quick thinking and fast talking which was never an easy thing for me at 8 am. I managed to talk my way out of the cuffs, but I had to endure a lecture from the prison warden that would have made my mother proud. But at least everything got worked out and I finally got to see Joe. Thank God I remembered to leave my gun and cuffs home in the cookie jar!
 
When I finally saw Joe, he told me that the minute the sirens went off he knew I'd arrived. Har-dee-har-har. Personally, I didn't find any humor in the whole situation but since he looked so tired and pale, I didn't give him any heat over it. At least he had a good laugh over my changing the locks. Apparently Angie was furious that her key no longer worked. Tough!
 
Anyway, Joe actually had two visiting hours a week. The other one was on Thursday afternoons at 3pm, which would have been perfect for me. I could have slept in, taken my time with hair and makeup, had lunch, even caught a skip or two. But Angie Morelli and Grandma Bella let it be known, all over town, that since they went to 7 o'clock Mass and Communion every morning, a sacrifice they made for Poor Joseph, and I didn't, they'd be taking the afternoon visiting hour. Fine! They could have it! And actually it worked out really well. I didn't have to share my hour with them, and Grandma Bella didn't have to try to give me the evil eye.
 
Every Tuesday Joe looked a little paler, a little thinner and a whole lot more stressed. I suspected prison food was pretty nasty, but all I could do was make sure that there was plenty of money in his prison account so he could get snacks and stuff at the Commissary if he wanted them. I also knew that the weight loss had more to do with stress than with the food. I wanted so badly to just put my arms around him and tell him that everything would be okay.
 
Along with feeling helpless sitting in prison, I guess it finally struck him that if he was convicted, he could be here for years and years, maybe even the rest of his life. And for something he didn't do. That thought had to be terrifying for him. No wonder he wasn't sleeping. He tried to reassure me, tried to sound positive, but his smile never quite reached his eyes.
 
Joe's trial date had been set for four months from now and his lawyer, Mark Cutler, had told him that it would take every minute of that time to build a defense. Cutler had called me, needing money to hire a private investigator, but Joe's bank account was rapidly disappearing. Lawyers sure didn't work for free.
 
I guess that snapped me to attention and I told Connie and Vinnie that I'd take on any skip they had, even if he was outside my comfort zone. I'd work my *** off to make sure Joe had the best defense money could buy. I managed to shake off my depression and even started running again. I gave up the 'comfort' that Tastykakes and Ben & Jerry's provided, putting the money I didn't spend in a jar I'd labeled 'Defense Fund' instead.
 
I sat at my assigned window at the CC a couple of Tuesdays later and waited for the guards to bring Joe in. I usually just chattered away about regular day to day, upbeat stuff, like how I'd taken Bob to the park and tried to teach him to catch a Frisbee, but unfortunately, he didn't grasp the whole concept. Bob would bark and leap around, I'd throw the Frisbee, and he'd sit down and wait for me to fetch it. I figured this might give Joe a laugh. I certainly wasn't going to tell him about the skips I'd been picking up, or any of the problems I'd had with them, or my trips to the emergency room. He had enough on his mind. At least I was making sure that he didn't have any money worries to add to the mix.
 
The door on the prison side of the window opened and Joe shuffled in. The guard released him from the cuffs that were attached to the chain around his waist, but didn't take off the shackles. Joe turned, sat in the chair and picked up the phone. I just stared at him, not able to tear my eyes off the fading bruises on his cheek or the healing split lip.
 
"What happened to your face?" I asked in shock.
 
Joe pointed at the phone that I had neglected to pick up. I grabbed it off the wall and repeated my question.
 
"Just a little scuffle, Cupcake. Nothing to worry about." He sat there and shrugged nonchalantly. "I swear your boobs get bigger every time I see you." He grinned, obviously trying to distract me, but it wasn't working.
 
"What do you mean, 'nothing to worry about'? I thought this place was supposed to be safer for you, that they could protect you here?" I was getting myself worked up. Tears of anger and frustration welled up in my eyes, not at all how I wanted this visit to go.
 
"Stephanie, if I thought you were gonna go off the deep end over this, I woulda canceled this visit. You're as bad as my mother!" he snapped.
 
Okay, that was so not a good thing to say to me. I felt like I'd been slapped. "Fine," I said calmly. "Care to tell me how that happened?" Now I was just pissed and I blinked away the tears that had threatened to spill out.
 
"Look, I'm sorry I lost my temper." He blew out a deep breath and pressed the palm of his hand against the window. I put mine against the glass too. "Two guys got into a fight on the food line and I got caught in the middle. No biggie. You should see the other guys." He gave me a lopsided grin around his split lip. "And you're nothing like my mother. She can cook."
 
I stuck my tongue out at him. "I thought you were going to be separated from the general prison population for your safety? How come they aren't doing that?"
 
"I refused it. It's like being in solitary 24/7. No human contact, no one to talk to. I'd go nuts real fast." He leaned his elbows on the little counter.
 
"What about the guards? They talk to you, don't they?" I realized how stupid that was the minute the words came out of my mouth.
 
"Steph, as far as they're concerned I betrayed the oath. They have no use for a rogue cop." There was a sadness in his eyes that broke my heart. Of all the things Joe loved, he loved being a cop the most.
 
"I'm so sorry, Joe. I wish I could make it better." I'd tried to make it better and failed. Maybe I should have tried harder.
 
"I know. I may have to be here, but I don't have to live like that. You don't know what it's like, and I know this sounds harsh, but you need to back off and let me make the decisions about this. Okay?"
 
All I could do was nod, drop the subject, and chat on about mundane things. When our time was up, I kissed my fingers and pressed them against the glass. Joe did the same. 'Don't worry,' he mouthed to me as the guard cuffed his hands. Joe gave me a wink and shuffled back to his cell. I sat out in my car and cried for half an hour before I calmed down enough to drive myself home.
 
A couple of weeks later, Joe had a bandage on his arm and stitches in his forehead. He flatly refused to talk about how it had happened. The week after that, the warden canceled my visit. Joe was in solitary for the next two weeks. 'An incident' had happened in the exercise yard. The prison wouldn't give me any more information than that. His lawyer claimed attorney-client privilege and refused to say anything about it either. I was being stone-walled, and I didn't know why.
 
Three weeks later, our visits were reinstated. I was almost giddy, I was so excited to finally see Joe again. I really needed to see him with my own two eyes, to reassure myself that he was all right. I'd been working seven days a week, pulling in skips, trying to keep myself so busy that I didn't have time to worry. Well, that sure as hell didn't work … all I did was worry. At least Joe's bank account was nice and fat, so something good came out of it all.
 
It was the crack of friggin' dawn, well, five to eight … same thing in my book, and I was already running late when I pulled into the visitors' parking lot at the Corrections Center. It was cold and windy and raining cats and dogs, and after cruising up and down every aisle in the lot, I slid into the only empty space which, of course, was out in BFE. Figures, doesn't it? You'd think that with Ranger in Miami I could've at least inherited his Jersey parking Karma, but nooooooo, not a chance.
 
Last night I called Eddie Gazzara and asked him to come see Joe with me today. Every once in a while, one of the guys would come along to cheer Joe up and let him know he had their support. I was hoping that if Joe wouldn't tell me about what was going on here, the fights and stuff, maybe he'd tell Eddie about it. You know, like guy stuff.
 
I dashed through the rain and into the visitors' waiting room to find a grim faced Eddie standing there. My heart stopped when I saw him. Whatever made him look like that, I knew it couldn't be good.
 
"Eddie?" My voice cracked as my stomach rolled and my knees went weak.
 
"Come on, Steph. Warden Daniels wants to talk to us." Eddie slipped his arm around my waist and we were shown into the Warden's office.
 
My heart was trying to beat its way out of my chest and my pulse was pounding so loudly that I could barely hear what the warden was saying to me. I just couldn't seem to process the information.
 
Long story short, that morning Joe had been jumped in the showers by a couple of guys he'd put behind bars. He'd been 'shanked', stabbed with a makeshift weapon, apparently an act of traditional prison revenge. He'd been hit in the back a couple of times and was in surgery at Mercer County Medical Center. The warden couldn't tell us his condition.
 
Bells clanged in my head and those damned little black dots danced in front of my eyes. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. I tried to put my head down on my knees, but instead, I slid out of my chair, falling head long into the big black hole that opened up right in front of me.
StephanieManoso StephanieManoso
31-35, F
1 Response May 16, 2012

I Loved grama and the thong, I am going to read every chapter, when my time is peaceful,this is great reading and writing.