Emily Kenyon 01 - A Cold Dark Place
4 PM, nineteen years ago
Women with transparent vinyl purses that exposed the shredded remainders of coin wrappers stood in line. They took deep breaths as the uniformed prison matron with icy hands prepared to probe their bodies. Talc-dipped rubber gloves snapped. It was humiliating in every sense of the word. The matron, a woman with ashen skin, pencil-thin lips, and with glasses on a cheap silver chain around her neck, knew those waiting to leave the institution felt her power, her supreme authority, and it made her smile. The women had lined up to leave after a long day of tears and excuses in the high school cafeteria milieu of the visiting room-a cavernous space of bolted-to-the-floor tables and fixed-position chairs. The matron’s husky voice intoned them to “cool their jets” and “wait your turn or I’ll have something to say about it.”
And so the women lingered, each feeling violated and angry. Having a husband, boyfriend, or brother inside the razor-wire-trimmed walls of Bonneville Maximum Security was bad enough. Being told with unfettered contempt by someone to wait your turn in the processing line was ptomaine gravy over a bad slab of beef. And they had to eat it. Every goddamned bite.
“Are you going to be a problem for me?” the matron asked, her gray eyes as sharp as awls pitched firmly at the distressed gaze of a young woman. The younger woman let out a measured sigh. She’d spent all day trying to tell her wannabedrug-lord husband that she was thinking of moving back east to Indiana. She wanted to be free. All of them did.
“Uh? Me?” the younger woman answered. She was barely twenty and still wore her chestnut hair in a ponytail, but she held a kind of weariness on her face that indicated she’d seen it all. She faked a smile of recognition at the matron. She knew when someone had it in for her. It had been her life since she left home. Ran away. Met the wrong man. Trashed her future. She could hear her mother’s words echo at that moment. You’ve thrown away everything your father and I had hoped for you. You screwed up, Donita. You really botched it.
“Yes, you, Ponytail,” the matron said, nodding in her direction. The rest of the women felt relief wash over them. Good, the bitch found someone else to bother. She motioned for her to step forward. “I need you to spread your legs. You’ve done it before, I’m sure. Wider.”
The young woman silently seethed, but she acquiesced. She had no choice.
“You know, if I can’t get my mitts between your thighs, either you’re gonna have to go on a diet or you’re gonna have to practice your splits in the back room. I don’t like you, I don’t trust you, and I think you’re carrying some contraband on your person. I just feel it.”
The back room was a dimly lit hospital-style space where women were forced to endure indignities based on their physiology. Flat on their backs, legs apart, feet stuck in metal stirrups.
“I’ll do better,” she said, all the while wondering what it would be like if she’d been an actual prisoner there, not a lowly visitor?
The altercation caught the attention of a chubby-faced woman in the back of the line. Her strawberry-blond shag had matted unflatteringly to her forehead. Her pulse quickened, but she kept her affect blank. She didn’t want to stand out and she didn’t want a trip to the back room for any kind of exam. She carried something so precious, so vital, that its discovery would ruin everything.
Be cool, Ponytail’s taking the heat. Thank you, Jesus.
She concealed her prize in a place she hoped no one would dare probe. Inside. Personal. Private. Besides she knew the matron only groped because she got off on it. No one was looking for someone to take much of anything out of here … they mostly watched for contraband coming in to the visiting room.
The matron fixed her eyes on the strawberry blonde with the secret. Her eyes held her with unyielding grip. She waited a beat.
“You can go,” she said.
The woman with the secret acknowledged the command and started walking in the direction of the lockers in which she had stored her coat and car keys before going under the arbor of razor wire, through the gate, to the visiting room.
“Wait a minute,” the matron said.
It felt like her heart stopped beating. She was going to die. Going to be caught. Adrenaline kicked her ticker back into play. She’s going to take me in the back room. She going to ruin
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