Chapter 3: False Facade and Handcuffs
“You're hurting me...” I heard my voice quiver with fear as I uttered the words. Never in my life could I remember a smile that scared me more than his steely grin.
The headlights of the arriving bus lit the insides of the grocery mart. I breathed in deeply and relaxed a little. Mayor or not, I knew as soon as I start screaming there would be several knights in shining armor to help a damsel in distress. Abruptly, his grasp released. His cold, smiling demeanor didn't change.
“I'm sorry. I guess I got a little excited. Please, forgive me.” Mayor Lockley slightly bowed his head with the pretense that he was some sort of gentlemen as he began to walk off.
I scurried to the board the bus. I told the bus driver my name, and he let me know that he had been called. My fare was paid in full, so I climbed into a cheap, clothe seat. My heart pounded against my chest as if it wanted to escape and wouldn't slow despite my best efforts to relax in the welcomingly warm seat. I was almost free. Breathe.
I found myself staring at the bus driver as if by will alone I could make him put the bus in gear and leave. Instead, he looked at his watched stretched his arms, pulled himself out of his seat and left the bus. I rubbed my hands against my face. 'I have to look natural,' I reminded myself and sat back.
The bus wasn't crowded, but the occasional seat hosted a sleepy traveler. I saw a curious kid who watched me from behind his seat next to his mother. I muster a smile to ease his curiosity. Like Pavlov dog's given the right stimulus, the boy quickly ducked his head out of sight in shyness. If only I had that kind of power on all men—If only the bus driver would quit smoking his damnable cigarette, and get back inside.
Seconds passed; he continued smoking.
Finally, the driver checked his watch and looked around. With a simple, nonchalant shrug he flicked the remainder of the cigarette butt and walked towards his driver seat. As I felt the vibration of the bus in motion, some of the night's anxiety dissipated.
Ten minutes passed, and we left that God-forsaken town.
Rural landscape gleamed in the headlights ahead. I found myself finally beginning to relax. My heart was beating normally, and I no longer had to fight my body's desire to tremble. I smiled to myself that calmer hands reached for my cell phone. However, Agent Wilkes never gave me his number.
I called Agent Chomsky instead. The call went directly to voice mail with a perky prerecorded voice asking me to leave my name and number. I told him that Agent Wilkes put me on a bus and told me to call without giving me a direct number. I decided to resist the urge to utter some profanities about their idiocy.
After I hung-up, I closed my eyes in an attempt to get some sleep. I had entered that state between sleep and wakefulness. I couldn't tell how much time had passed, but knew it wasn't very long. I opened my eyes to the visions of red and blue dancing lights across the dark landscape along a long road to nowhere. Sheriff Tate stepped inside.
His eyes examined ever occupant of the bus before they locked in on me. He continued forward as he spoke. “Diana Beeklin, if that is your real name, you are under arrest.” I always hated small towns.
I looked up at the light fixtures as I lied on the cot inside the quiet cell. Getting processed is always the same: they take your picture, they take your fingerprints, before they take away your freedom by throwing you in a cell. If you're lucky, you get a cold, sterile, white, cell like this one to share with no one. If you're not, the cell is grungy due to the massive quantity of detained individuals despite the best efforts of the janitorial crew. I had never thought I would enjoy being behind bars, but I found the experience very relieving. I didn't even know what I was arrested for. After Sheriff Tate read me my rights, I asked for my lawyer and a phone call. When I called to update Agent Chomsky, it went back directly to voice mail—I'm glad I wasn't in a life-threatening situation. The drunken fool was probably passed-out in some dirty bar stall. As for my attorney, they said he would arrive for my first counseling in the morning.
Well morning came, and I still sat in my cell, waiting. I had slept surprisingly well. The fear of last night was replaced by some strange feelings of nostalgia. It's been a long time since I had been in a jail cell. I was a wild daredevil in my younger days. I doubted that I would had run in fear so quickly without knowing who was after me, why they were after me, and what I could do about it. I must have put more faith in federal law enforcement than I wanted to admit. They said when you receive a threat assume your cover is blown and run, so I ran. It was drilled into me over and over again. Agent Wilkes told me to go to the bus stop, and as a sheep, I did. They drilled into me that if I hid they would catch me and convict me of my crimes, so I obediently followed their orders. Never seriously making a plan to assume a new life. I sighed as I sat up and checked the time on a clock mounted on the far wall. Nine o'clock on a Saturday morning, and I should be baking a pie for Amy—I've lost my edge.
The door to the outside world opened. A deputy walked in and opened my cage. “Okay, 'Ms. B.'” He indicating for me to go with him. “As you requested, a publicly appointed attorney has been selected for you.”
He escorted me to a small room with nothing more than a table, two chairs, and my new 'publicly appointed attorney.' I sat across from the man in a slick, blue suit. He wore a smile to tell me that he was my best friend, but I knew better. I always found defense attorneys disgusting. One thing I've learned in my life is how to detect a phony, and defense attorneys were as phony as they came. They were not the noble defenders of the innocent as portrayed on television, but rather the two-faced jackals of the law enforcement world. A person hires them to represent their best interest, but like a buyers agent who convinces you to spend more in the purchase of a house, the defense attorney will make agreements with the prosecutor on how much time you should serve and convince you that is within your best interest. When that failed, the go to court to put on a show for you, while secretly hoping that they would fail, so that the criminal would go to jail. However, the more sincere type, only cared about getting paid. I wonder which type my new “best friend” would be.
“Hello, I'm Jeff Gordon.” He extended his arm out to me. “I have been assigned as your counselor.”
I shook his hand, and he waited for the deputy to leave before he continued. “Ms. B, I believe that's the name you go by.”
I nodded my head but remained silent.
“Well,” he continued, “let me explained the process...”
I raised my hand to interrupt him. “I know the process.”
“I imagine you would after looking at you rap sheet.”
“Well, if you've seen my real record I guess you know why I'm here.” I sat forward and looked directly into his eyes. “I have been framed.”
Instantly, I could tell by an involuntary twitch that he didn't believe me. “Okay, who did it?”
“I don't know.” It was an honest response, but I could tell he wasn't impressed. “You have to believe me though. I'm working for the FBI.”
“Ms. B. let me paint this picture very clear for you.” Gordon sat forward, and the edge in his voice told me he spoke with earnest. “You do not work for the FBI. You are an informant, and as I'm told, you are part of a special use-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief type of program, but your status is very akin to that of the witness protection program. However, rather than having information, you have what is deemed a special skill set. You have a rap sheet a mile long to include: extortion, bribery, aiding & abetting fugitive Darren York, forgery, fraud and larceny, which is short when compared to your list of aliases to include: Diana Beeklin, Molly Beldin, Erika Burns, Rachel Broom, Richelle Beckley, Tracy Boyer, Kate Beckingsale, and my personal favorite Jane Bond. I guess you really like being called Ms. B.”
“It keeps things simple.”
“I can only imagine.” Gordon snickered then continued. “The prosecutor is going to use all of this against you. He is going to paint you as a criminal that played the government for fools collecting a paycheck from the FBI on the side while you conducted your illicit activities under their very nose. The Feds will do everything in their possible power to remain neutral during these court proceedings. There will undoubtedly be parents on the juror panel that sees your constant imitation of a teacher as the most vile betrayal of trust. Your only hope, your only salvation is me, and I can do that best if I know the truth!”
“You and me both.” Although I didn't appreciate his lecture, he successfully reminded me of the full weight of my predicament. “What am I in for this time anyways?”
“They didn't tell you?” The suspicion in Gordon's eye was evident.
“They must have forgotten, and I didn't ask...”
Jeff Gordon reached into his briefcase and pulled out a file to open before me. “Possession, distribution, and creation of child pornography.” The sights were very disturbing. One photo in particular, challenged the very foundation of my own personal sanity. Jake and Amy were holding hands.
My arraignment was scheduled for Monday. While I prepared to look as professional as possible in an orange jumpsuit, I couldn't help but remember Jake's warning. It was appropriate. This may or may not have been the “death” he was trying to warned me about, but now I worried more for his safety. Poor, Little Jake. The trauma he must have endured...I couldn't imagine, and he risked so much to warn me.
Were his parents involved? Doubtful, more than likely they thought I was the pedophile. Hell, after Jeff Gordon explained all the evidence manufactured against me, I began to wonder if I was guilty. There were videos on my computer with electronic timestamps that coincided with weekend visits with students; 9 out of 11 victims were either my students or former students; and testimonies from the children extended longer than my rap sheet. Whoever framed me, did it very thoroughly.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair was so messy and not a brush anywhere to be found. It wouldn't have mattered twenty years ago. I had tight hips and full-figured breasts...or did I have tight breasts and full-figured hips?
It didn't matter anymore, but rather than defeat, a defiant resolve swelled inside of me. Forty-something or twenty-something, the FBI wasn't controlling my life anymore. I would find the true pedophiles and make them face justice. I had to for Jake's sake, for Amy's sake, for Lucy's sake, for the eight other children, and for my own.
It was time, and I was ready. The deputy came to escort me. Custody transfer after custody transfer, I found myself walking through bureaucracy's best until I was seating next to a few other accused individuals in a courtroom. Jeff Gordon waved and gave me his best friend smile.
Before he had a chance to approach me for any last minute encouragement, the ritual began. “All rise.” We stood as the bailiff introduced the judge, then took our seats again. The judge arraigned the accused quickly and decisively. Each had their own stories, each ended with a whimper or a smile. Then for first time in countless years, I heard my real name called.
“Peoples against Beatrice York.” I stood up.
“Prosecution?” The judge uttered a single word.
“Known to be a multiple offense criminal with a high risk of flight,” the prosecutor said, “recommend interment without bail.”
“Defense?” The judge's monotone voice beckoned to Jeff Gordon.
“Your honor, my client is an elderly lady that pose no threat of flight. The current charges against her do not align with the previous, currently unpracticed lifestyle of petty fraud and larceny over a dozen years ago. We request release upon her own recognizance.”
The prosecutor laughed. “She was apprehended fleeing on a bus to leave the state.”
“After receiving a death threat!” Gordon countered.
“From her own molested former student!”
“Enough!” The judge raised his hands to stop the two bickering attorneys. “The bail is set at two million dollars.” The gavel taped down to seal my fate.
“We can look at getting you bail.” Gordon said as the bailiff placed me in handcuffs.
As I gave him a smile for his efforts, I noticed for the first time Mayor Lockley had attained my arraignment as he sat in the back corner. His content, wide smile almost seemed to extend from one ear to the other. It was the kind of devious smile worn by all when everything was going accordingly to some diabolical plan.