Nightmares In The Neighborhood
by William Jaman Taylor
"Hello," Tom answered.
"Thomas Ray Martin?" the caller said.
"Whoís calling?" Tom asked.
"This is Lt. Barry Gibson over at the Aurora Police Department. I was hoping to reach you before the mid-day newscast." Whatís this about?" Tom asked.
"Well, we have your son in custody. You might want to make another trip to the police department," Lt. Gibson said in a calm and direct tone.
"My sonís in custody. What for?" Tom asked.
"Mr. Martin, your son and five other fraternity members were positively identified and charged with the murder of Jason Taylor last Friday night," Lt. Gibson said.
Tom dropped into the chair behind his desk. "What! Is this some kind of sick joke?" Tom asked angrily.
"Iím afraid not, Mr. Martin," Lt. Gibson said.
Tomís head was spinning. He and Rachel had been trying to contact Brad ever since they heard the horrible news about Jason, but were unable to reach him. They figured that Brad had just gone off to grieve to himself, and would show up shortly before the memorial and funeral services. Tom was in complete shock.
"They were best friends..." Tom said.
"Your son has provided us with a very lengthy written confession, detailing exactly why they did it. It turned out that he was the one who struck the fatal blow that caused the victim his life," Lt. Gibson stated flatly.
Tomís shock turned to fury at the mention of a written confession. He bolted from his leather office chair.
"What is my sonís bail set for?!" Tom sneered.
"Heís being held without bond," Lt. Gibson said.
"How am I going to tell my wife about this?" Tom thought out loud as he stared up at the ceiling.
"I think you should also consider how you are going to tell your clients and best friends. I expect to see you shortly," Lt. Gibson said before hanging up, leaving Tom absently holding the phone to this head.
"You donít have to worry about how youíre going to tell me," Rachel said silently as she stepped into the home office, with the cordless phone clutched in her right hand. "I heard everything. We have to get him out of jail," she said.
"Heís provided the police with a written confession. Weíre talking first-degree murder here. Iíll see what I can do," Tom said as he dropped his head and placed his hands on his waist.
"See what you can do! Youíre his father and a fucking lawyer for Christís sake, and all you can say is that youíll see what you can do," Rachel yelled, showing a side of her that Tom had never encountered.
"Regardless of who or what I am, first-degree murder is just that...first-degree murder! Not to mention thereís a conflict of interest," Tom fired back, angered by everything and how quickly things were happening.
"A conflict of interest," Rachel repeated.
"Thatís right . . . a conflict of interest. I can try my best to circumvent the legal system, but there are federal and state laws and codes of ethics in place where a judge would make the decision to recuse me from the case or not. And if a judge was to rule in my favor, prosecutors for Mike and Lisa would formally file a recusal to have me removed from the case," Tom explained.
"Well Iím not going to sit here and twiddle my thumbs while my son is sitting in some jail cell like a common criminal," Rachel said.
"Newsflash, Rachel! Tom exclaimed. "Brad confessed to the murder. His participation alone has incriminated him. That makes him a goddamn criminal," he yelled and smashed the cordless phone against bookshelves packed with law tomes and diplomas.
"Tom, weíre talking about our son here. Whose side are you on?" Rachel asked, with tears flowing down her cheeks.
"This is not about taking sides. Have you thought about how Mike and Lisa are going to feel when they find out that Jason was murdered by his best friend, our son, Brad? That makes Jasonís tragic death all the more difficult to deal with."
"No, I havenít. Thatís not my problem or primary concern," Rachel gritted out through her teeth and wiped away tears. "My son, our son, Tom, is sitting in a filthy-rotten jail cell. Thatís my problem and primary concern now," she snarled, in utter coldness.
"How can you be so cold? Whereís the woman I married, who-who was compassionate and overly friendly? I remember teasing you, saying you had a trace of Williams Syndrome.
"That was before our misguided son needed us now more than ever. Heís not from the wrong side of the tracks. We can help him, Tom," Rachel said.
"Help him? How? The therapy sessions obviously didnít work. The trip to Africa wasnít therapeutic. Our home was filled with authentic African-American art didnít serve as a daily reminder. An African-American family moved next-door to us sure as hell didnít help. Letís face it, Rachel, our son is a sick individual," Tom said.
"Tom, donít you even care that weíre about to lose our son, and--".
Tom angrily cut in. "And what, Rachel? Listen to what youíre saying? Mike and Lisa have already lost their son. You canít compare a jail cell to a morgue. Jason is dead. Mike and Lisa will never see their son alive again!" he protested and snatched his keys off his office desk, grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair, exited the office, walked through the hallway and into the foyer, and headed toward the front door.
Rachel was close behind on his heels. "Since youíre not acting like a father and a lawyer toward your own son, why donít you just pretend that Brad is one of your fucking high profile cases and get him out of jail!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
"Why donít you just pretend that our son killed his best friend? And while youíre at it, any pity and sorrow that you can muster up, save it for Mike and Lisa. They are sure as hell going to need it," Tom said sarcastically, opened and slammed the door shut behind him, leaving Rachel standing absently on the other end.
Once outside, Tom paused and allowed the rain to splatter down on his face. "What am I going to do?" he asked himself, gazing up at the cold raining sky.
"Thatís a good question, counselor. I heard everything," Maddie said as she walked toward him. Tom paused, his mouth opened a tiny bit involuntarily, looking perplexed, wondering if, in fact, she had heard and known everything.
Standing face-to-face with Maddie, he read into her facial expression that, in fact, she had indeed known everything.
"I saw you on the news yesterday. You spoke with great conviction about what was gonna happen to the murderers who killed my grandbaby. Counselor, now that you know that your very own son killed my grandbaby, are you still for the death penalty?" Maddie asked as she shifted the umbrella from her right hand to the left, to get a good look at his face.
Tom had become despondent and fell against the side of the house, shook his head as he slid down the side of the wall, huddled in a corner, shivering and weeping. Heís disturbed by the thoughts that raced through his head.
"I donít know what I feel or what to think. Iím so confused right now. So many things are racing through my mind all at once. I tried to make things right," Tom rambled and shook his head as he wrapped his arms around his shivering shoulders.
"What do you mean by make things right? Maddie asked.
Tom released a deep sigh and looked up at the drizzling sky.
"As a kid, I witnessed a black man being beaten and lynched by a racist white college fraternity. For years, I was haunted by ghostly visions and dreams of this black man. It was as if he was trying to tell me something. I was just a kid, for Christís sake. There wasnít anything I could have done. That sense of helplessness is what led me to law school. I wanted to become a lawyer. I vowed to fight the prejudices and injustices of the world. I thought these nightmarish visions and dreams would go away."
He broke down, crying and shaking his head. "They didnít," Tom confessed and glanced over at her. "Maddie, youíre wise women. What am I to do?" he asked.
"Believe me, counselor, there ainít nothing you can do. That decision has already been made," Maddie said and walked away, leaving Tom huddled in the corner, weeping, looking more perplexed.
Maddie made her way back across the lawn and entered the house only to find Mike and Jon tuned into the mid-day newscast. The news anchorwoman had just dropped a bomb that sent Mike in a rage. He rocketed from off the sofa, swept past Maddie, rushed out the front door, and over to the Martins. Maddie whipped around, to try and stop him, but to no avail.
Mikeís face turned to stone as he dashed across the lawn and headed straight for Tom.
Tom spotted Mike charging toward him like a raging bull. His eyes widen as he staggered to his feet. He slipped on the wet pavement, huddled in a corner, and cowered with both arms in a defensive position. Mike hovered over Tom, lifted him up by his jacket, and slammed his backside up against the side of the house.
"You knew about this K T N shit. You knew Brad was a danger to society. Didnít you?" Mike yelled, running on pure adrenaline. He jerked Tom again by his jacket, demanding an answer. "Didnít you?! He yelled louder over the subdivision, his anger fueled by his own suspicion, and slammed Tomís backside up against the side of the house again.
Tomís expression registered sheer terror. "I warned Brad not to join. He went behind my back and got mixed up with the wrong crowd of people," he tried explaining, in a tearful voice.
Before Mike could respond, a convoy of major local TV vans, channels 2, 5, 7, 9 and 32, had entered the subdivision, and pulled up in front of Mike and Tomís homes. In no time, cameramen and crewmen quickly exited their vehicles, getting their satellite antennas up, each reporter with a microphone in one hand, an umbrella in the other, treading over the wet lawn to get to Mike and Tom.
"Mr. Martin, do you believe your son committed the murder of Jason Lamar Taylor? A reporter asked.
"How have your wives responded to the latest news?" a second reporter asked.
"Are the two families still friends? If not, do you think both families will ever reconcile? A third reporter asked.
"Mr. Martin, now that it has been confirmed that your very own son committed the murder, are you still in favor of the death penalty?" A forth reporter asked.
"Do you believe the murder was racially motivated since news reports have confirmed the fraternity's name is indeed a double entendre? A final reporter asked.
"Why don't you bloodhounds just pack up and leave?! Mike yelled and turned to Tom. "Come inside," he said calmly.
Still, they were trailed and bombarded with a litany of questions by the reporters as Tom followed Mike back into his house. Once inside the foyer, they witnessed Lisa slowly making her way down the stairs. A deep pain etched on her face--controlled, but evident. Her pained eyes were raw-heavy from crying but no tears.
"What's going on? Whatís with all the reporters?" Lisa asked in a weeping voice.
Mike looked upstairs with glistening eyes. His face clearly indicated he doesn't know how to tell her the unfortunate truth.
"Sweetheart, so far, the police have arrested six students in connection with Jasonís murder," Mike said as he turned and looked to Tom who had simply buried his head in his chest. He turned back to Lisa, released a deep sigh, and said, "One of them was Brad."
Lisa stood frozen on the stairs in disbelief. Tom stood motionless, his head still buried in his chest. After a moment, she turned to Tom; her eyes welling up as she slowly shook her head.
"No! Oh, God! No!" Lisa choked, slowly shaking her head as painful tears streaked her face. She had become unglued and screamed at the top of her lungs as she bolted downstairs, her footsteps thundering on the stairs. Lisa hurled herself at Tom, grabbed him by his soaking-wet jacket with her left hand and pounded his chest with her right hand in total despair. "Tell me that Brad did not kill my baby. Tell me itís not true! Tell me itís not true! She cried out, her voice rising, still pounding her fist on his chest before becoming weary, collapsing on his right shoulder, crying harder.
Mike gently removed Lisa's grip from Tom's jacket, hugged and consoled her.
Maddie stepped over and rubbed her grieving daughter's back. Jon stepped behind Maddie and placed both hands on her shoulders. It pained Tom to see first-hand how the murder had gripped the family. He knew, at the moment, there wasn't anything he couldíve said or done to ease the familyís pain. Tom clammed up, dropped his head, and wept.
Lisa removed herself from Mike's comforting arms, turned and faced Tom.
"I want to see him," Lisa gritted out through her teeth as Tom slowly raised his head, and looked at her. After a moment, he released a deep sigh and nodded.
Approximately twenty minutes later, Tom walked with Mike and Lisa toward their car in the driveway. They were headed to the Aurora Police Department, leaving Jon and Maddie behind just in case family members and friends were to call with questions or get information pertaining to the memorial service and funeral arrangements. Mike opened the left back door for Lisa. She stepped into the backseat of the car. As Mike was about to shut the door, Rachel had stepped out the front door, running across the lawn.
"Tom, where do you think youíre going?" Rachel asked without acknowledging Mike and Lisaís presence.
"Weíre going to the jail," Tom answered.
"Why do you have to go?" Rachel asked, with a stoic look on her face.
"Iím going because Iím trying to make sense of it all," Tom said.
Lisa snapped, angered by Rachelís blatant rudeness. She stepped out of the backseat of the car to confront her.
"Look, Lisa, Iím sorry for what happened to Jason, and I can only imagine what you must be going through, but no matter what happens, heís not coming back. Brad is my son, and there is a chance of saving him," Rachel said, the cold tone implied.
"Saving him from what? Life in prison? The death penalty? Evidently you donít have a clue as to what Iím going through," Lisa said as she kicked off her shoes, picked them up, thrusting them into Rachelís arms.
"Here, walk in my shoes, go stand in my living room and see how it feels to know your son wonít ever walk through the door again. Walk in my shoes and go visit his body at the morgue, zipped up in a body bag. Wear my shoes to his funeral, and tell me how it feels to see your sonís casket being lowered six feet into the ground. You wouldnít want to trade places with me. So donít you dare begin to think that you can imagine what I must be going through," she said, her lament too painful for mere words.
Lisa turned and galloped bare-footed back into the house. The crying had begun all over again. Lisa was too upset, and, understandably, had changed her mind about making the trip to the jail.
Rachel, who was also crying as well, turned and trotted in the opposite direction just across the lawn back toward her own house, with Lisaís shoes in tow.