“The Mami and the Monkey”
“You back on the pipe, Kick?” “No, I’m not back on the pipe!” Kristin “Kicky” McGee snapped back. “I’m clean as a whistle, and I been clean for six months now!”
“Yeah, well, I guess I shouldn’t have called the cops on you. That wasn’t, like, playing the game,” muttered Lenny. “Then again, maybe if I wanted to jam you up I should have turned you in for hatecrime. I know you don’t like dark meat, but that’s prejudice, even in a whore.”
“The term is sex trade worker, thank you,” said Kicky primly. “And it’s not prejudice, it’s a preference. Being a sex trade worker, I am in a politically protected category, sort of anyway, and I’m allowed to have preferences. Remember, no means no. Even for hookers.”
While the two of them were haggling, a nondescript older model Ford Explorer pulled up outside Jupiter’s Den. It was a warm summer’s day, and the SUV’s two occupants had the windows rolled down. The driver was a tall and powerful man with a seamed boxer’s face, a shaved head and goatee beard. The pro wrestler look wasn’t Big Jim McCann’s personal choice, since he was a master electrician by profession, but he needed to alter his appearance because his face was on a few too many wanted posters, web sites, and television screens as of late. McCann was quartermaster of the NVA’s [Northwest Volunteer Army] First Portland Brigade. His passenger was Jesse “Cat-Eyes” Lockhart, who after much debate amounting to a passionate argument between Tommy Coyle and Zack Hatfield, had been transferred from D Company to First Brigade A Company and put on sniper duty in the big city. As reluctant as Zack had been to let him go, and as reluctant as Lockhart himself had been to leave his old friends and comrades in Clatsop County, the fact was that Cat was running out of major targets in D Company’s area of operation, and he was too valuable a resource to waste out in the sticks plinking away at Mexican dock workers and the local Chamber of Commerce. In the short time he had been in Portland, the Jack of Diamonds had already bagged a city councilman, a U.S. Army colonel, the head of the African-American Democratic Club, another FBI agent, and several police officers. His presence in the city was known, and he was driving the local politically correct establishment into hysterics. “You want me to go in with you?” asked Lockhart.
“Naw,” said McCann. “Gillis is a nervous little cuss, and he might get spooked if he sees somebody he don’t know. I just need to find out from him where he’s got the stuff stashed, and set up a pickup so we can get the gear and pay him. Then we need to get you to the Mayflower Hotel.” It was time for Cat to change safe houses, and McCann had been the only transport available. McCann’s phone beeped. He took it out of his pocket and flipped it open. “Yeah?” He listened for a few moments. “Okay.” He closed the phone. “That was our escort vehicle. Van Gelder says there’s a patrol coming down Sandy Boulevard, two units and an armored car. Unmarked, probably Portland Rapid Response, but maybe BATFE or FBI. They’re cruising slow. The way they’re coming, looks like they’re gonna turn onto 82nd in about a minute.”
“I don’t think they’re looking for us specifically,” said Lockhart. “They’ve been doing that a lot lately, keeping goon squads on the street as rapid response teams, moving around, trying to cover the city so they can move in fast with a lot of firepower on any of our naughty shenanigans. Ace and me got chased by one of those crews last time out.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want them driving by and looking in here and recognizing you,” said McCann. “You’d better come inside after all. Just hang back at the bar while I have my chat with Lenny, and then we’ll move on after Van tells us they’ve passed.”
Kicky turned around and saw one of the men who looked like a wrestler or a biker walk forward to talk to Gillis. They met at the end of the bar nearest to where Kicky sat in the booth. Reading men was a vital survival skill in Kicky’s lines of work both legitimate and otherwise, and with these two she immediately read muscle of some kind, heavy muscle. There was just something about the way they carried themselves, not with a criminal swagger or thuggish biker lope, but controlled and fast and efficient, no wasted motion.
She got up and went to the ladies’ room, in a small corridor near the bar. After she finished she quietly slipped down to the door of the men’s room at the other end of the short hallway and studied the younger man in the long mirror behind the bar. The bartender brought him a diet soda in a can with a plastic cup, and when he turned to pour it Kicky saw his face and profile clearly. Damn, she thought, I know him from somewhere. Who is he? She ran over her long list of male personal and business acquaintances. No, not one of them. She rummaged through the past few years of her disorderly life. No, nothing. Was he on TV or something? Recognition suddenly slammed into her. Jesus H. Christ! she whistled to herself. It’s him! That sniper every cop and Feebie in the Northwest is looking for! Well, well! Lenny’s coming up in the world, looks like. What the fuck kind of business is he doing with the spuckies? Bet it’s guns.
Kicky left the club and returned to her battered single-wide mobile home in a rundown trailer park about two miles away. She didn’t have a car of her own, the cab company wouldn’t allow her to take her cab home, and the buses were full of Mexicans who always dirty-mouthed her in Spanish and pawed all over her, so she walked. She was so sick inside herself at what she was doing that it was all she could do to go home and not go out hunting the streets for some rock, but she knew full well that if she went back to the drugs as well as back to the sex trade, she would be dead or back in prison within a year, and her daughter would be scooped up by It Takes A Village like a barracuda snapping up a minnow.
The prospect of committing sexual acts with drunken and usually unhygienic strange men, even white men, filled her with such disgust that she wanted to vomit even at the thought, but she understood that she had reached the point in her life where her always limited range of choices had virtually disappeared. Kicky knew that America had one rule above all else. Get money. It didn’t matter how you did it, you got money, end of story, or else you ended up like the white-haired bag women Kicky saw pushing their possessions up and down 82nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard in shopping carts. No welfare or affirmative action or diversity programs for poor white chicks. Poor white chicks either stole or put out, or they got left behind. If you had a white skin, you got money or you fell below the point of no return. Never mind all that crap you saw on TV, that lovely diverse, racially mixed society where there was still a middle class and still material things and all was jolly. That was television. It wasn’t real. 82nd Avenue was real.
“You goin’ back to whoring?” snorted the old lady.
Kicky didn’t attempt to evade the question. “I got to get money, Mom,” she said simply. “I have to get Ellie out of Oregon, out of Child Protective Services’ reach. Otherwise they’re going to take her and sell her to some rich bastards. I know she’d be better off with them…”
“Mommy!” shouted a small golden-haired personage of eighteen months, wearing nothing but a Pamper, who gallumphed into the room from the bedroom and hugged onto Kicky’s leg. “Up!” she demanded. “Up me!”
“Hi, baby girl,” said Kicky with a smile, picking up the child. “Ooh, pooh, baby made a boo-boo! You need a change! Come on, let’s fix that!” She snagged another Pamper from the torn bag on the cracked Formica kitchen table and headed for the bathroom, trying not to think of what she would be doing later on.
She was wearing short hot pants and gleaming vinyl boots with elevated although not quite high heels, a low-cut halter top with no bra (she knew a lot of her potential customers found her tattoos erotic), a wide leather belt, and carrying a shoulder bag purse containing such items as extra condom packs and sex toys. It also contained a canister of pepper spray in a special holster sleeve.
Kicky looked around for Lenny Gillis, but couldn’t see him anywhere on the floor. She shoved through a door marked “Employees Only”—well, she was kind of an employee now—and looked in his office, which was also empty. She slipped outside into the alley.
The shouting was coming from just on the other side of a dumpster. Kicky crept up and peeked around the side of the receptacle. Lenny Gillis was being held up against the wall by a large, black, uniformed Portland police officer. Shit! thought Kicky to herself in shock. It’s the Monkey!
Like any street girl, she had immediately recognized Detective Sergeant Jamal Jarvis of the Portland Police Bureau’s Hatecrime and Civil Disobedience Squad, the feared police unit that constituted the muscle arm of Portland’s ultra-liberal and politically correct establishment. The word on the street was clear and unambiguous: black, Mexican, and Asian hookers paid Jarvis off in money or sometimes in drugs, but white girls paid in trade. Kicky was not the only white working girl who still retained some vestige of decency and personal standards, and the fate of those who refused or evaded Jarvis’s demands was not encouraging. Such bigoted ladies of the evening tended to end up facing bogus charges and many years in prison, or getting a coffee cup full of acid in the face, or in some cases their dead and violated bodies were found floating in the Columbia River or jammed into a culvert. No one cared much about a few dead white skanks here and there, but there had eventually been such a rash of that kind of thing that even the politically correct Portland Police Bureau realized that they had to do something to avoid embarrassment.
Jarvis was in the process of assaulting Lenny with a heavy, flat, leather-wrapped implement about a foot long, known in police circles as a slapjack. It was just as heavy and painful, but the flat surface left less telltale bruising than a traditional blackjack. “Whutcha gonna do, Lenny?” Jarvis droned on, slapping Gillis’ head back and forth with the cosh, each blow a dull and sickening thud that sprayed blood from Gillis’s mutilated and bleeding face, his broken nose and bleeding eyes. “Whutcha gonna do, Lenny? Gib Roscoe his money, fukkin cracka, gib Roscoe his money.”
“I haven’t got it!” screamed Lenny hysterically. “I can get it Friday! I can get it Friday! Jesus God!”
“Friday ain’t today, muthafukka!” rumbled Roscoe. “Gimme my props, muthafukka! Gimme my thousand!”
Kicky realized with horror that Jarvis was high, on drugs and on shedding white blood. He didn’t really care about the money. He just liked to beat white boys. She also realized that Lenny had suddenly stopped screaming.
“Aw, shit, Jamal, you a fool!” yelled Roscoe angrily. “We was takin’ a grand a month off this ofay mutthafukka!”
“So we finds us another piece of white trash to pin it on,” said Jarvis carelessly. In her hiding place behind the piled cardboard boxes of trash, Kicky McGee suddenly realized her own deadly peril. She tried to back away quietly, and needless to say she managed to back into another stack of piled boxes and knock it over, the glass and cans and junk inside cascading into the alley floor with a clatter.
Jarvis and Roscoe were calloused and brutal men, but their animal instincts were sharp and when need arose they could both move fast. They were on her before she could get ten feet down the alley in her sprint for the door.
Kicky was still unconscious when they brought her in. She didn’t even know for sure where she was. It might have been some station house, but most likely she was somewhere in the bowels of the downtown Portland Justice Center on Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Originally built as a modish complex of brick, glass, and concrete to adorn a stylish and politically correct power structure, decorated with murals and sculptures by trendy Portland artists, the Justice Center had taken on a much more grim and stark appearance and function since the Coeur d’Alene rebellion had broken out the previous autumn. Other areas had been slow to realize the danger and had accordingly suffered courthouses and police stations burned, bombed, and invaded by the NVA, who sometimes torched big stacks of legal and law enforcement papers and records on rural courthouse lawns. Not Portland. The multi-structured complex of the Justice Center’s several buildings containing the courtrooms both state and federal, offices, and the headquarters of the Portland Police Bureau, had immediately been transformed at great taxpayers’ expense into a fully fortified and secured Green Zone, based on plans drawn up by consultants from Israel and the United Kingdom.
But the Center had become a place of fear and nightmare not just in its outward appearance. Inside were the headquarters not just of the police, but of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. These agencies had considered their pre-10/22 offices too exposed, and they had taken over a large portion of the administrative floors of the federal courthouse and sealed it off. There were rumors of excavations being done in secret by specially imported construction crews of Asian and Mexican laborers as more offices, soundproofed interrogation cells, and holding cells were dug deep beneath the complex. Then there were the stories of the torture chambers deep beneath the earth or high in windowless rooms, padded to muffle the screams. It was known that more white prisoners entered the Justice Center than ever emerged. What happened to them no one knew, but it was rumored that there was a covert crematorium in one of the walled-off courtyards of the complex. The Justice Center cast a long shadow over the city of Portland, a warning to any who might dare think of rebelling against the United States, and a source of anger and hatred that glowed secretly in the recesses of men’s hearts and minds, burning steadily brighter as time went on and more and more white people’s family members disappeared into the Green Zone.
It was all gone. She was white, she was poor, and everything she knew from her very birth told her that no one on earth would lift a finger to help her. She had always held the bitter belief that she had nothing, but now that it was all gone she understood how much she’d really had before, the trailer where she could at least lay down her head at night alone if she chose, the sad drunken woman who had borne her but at least had not left her, and above all the little golden child she would never see again except maybe through the glass on visiting day. This couldn’t be happening. It was surely a nightmare. She had them sometimes. Surely she would wake up soon. She closed her eyes and desperately willed herself to wake up, but when she opened her eyes, she was still in the god-awful puce green room with the cloying and overpowering smell of fresh paint, a smell that was making her sick.
Outside, behind the two-way mirror, although Kicky could hear nothing through the soundproofed walls, Jamal Jarvis was having a spirited discussion with his partner, Detective Sergeant Elena Martínez. Lainie Martínez was the Mami half of the Portland detective team commonly known as the Mami and the Monkey. She was a tall, slim, thirty-something woman with clear olive skin, straight black hair, brown eyes and a figure that looked fine indeed in a bathing suit and turned many heads both male and lesbian in the indoor swimming pool in the police gym where she worked out every couple of days and swam 50 laps afterward. Unlike her quondam FBI counterpart, the late and rather unlamented Rabang Miller, Lainie was actually respected, if not liked, by her superiors and her fellow officers in the PB for her competence and her occasionally brilliant detective work. No one remembered ever having seen her smile.
She wasn’t smiling now. “Oh, for God’s sake, Jamal, how many of these messes do you think you can get away with making until Internal Affairs has finally had enough?” she snapped.
“Hey, it ain’t my fault a white boy’s candy ass is so fucking fragile he cain’t take a little beat-down,” muttered Jarvis defensively.
“Look, I know how the game is played,” said Lainie in irritation. “Until police salaries come up to something commensurate with the work we do, and the risks we take, especially now with a bunch of racist crazies gunning for us every time we step outside the door, then every officer with any initiative is going to have something going on the side.”
A Mexican uniformed officer came down the hall toward them, holding a larger manila file folder and handed it to Jarvis. (He had once made the mistake of addressing Sergeant Martínez in Spanish with a flippant “Hola, Mami!” and had almost found himself hauled up on sexual harassment charges.)
“Hey, Jamal, here’s the file on your puta blanca with the tattoos in there,” he said. “Lookin’ good, my man. Seems Lenny Gillis filed a complaint with us a few months back when she assaulted him, hit him in the head with a beer bottle. He dropped the charges, but it’s on record. She’s got priors for solicitation and holding, and she did fourteen months in Coffee Creek on a two to five for larceny and possession of stolen goods.”
Lainie was thoroughly Americanized, and she spoke Spanish only on these occasions when it was required in the line of work. Her one secret neurosis and obsession, not even admitted to the Bureau shrink during her periodic required evaluations, was that she wanted more than anything else to be white. Not just any white; Elena Martínez dreamed of herself as Nordic white, with creamy skin and golden hair. Like the girl in the interrogation room, only without the tattoos. Her unconscious longing had long ago sublimated itself into an almost insane hatred of white people in general, white racialists in particular, and blonde white women even more particularly.
Jamal Jarvis was sharp enough to realize that Lainie was smarter than he was, and he sensed that hers were good coattails for him to ride on, so he generally acted as the brawn of the team while she was the brains. It worked surprisingly well, and their high clearance rate and general rep for getting results in the form of confessions from suspected racists and other thought criminals had done them both good, departmentally speaking. But Jarvis sensed that Lainie was what the Hispanics referred to as a “cocoanut,” brown on the outside and white on the inside.
Kicky looked up as the door opened and the two detectives entered the room. Jarvis had a thick file in his hand that she presumed were her yellow sheets. She looked at Lainie, Levantine sleek and arrogant and dressed to the nines in a blue serge skirt and jacket like some kind of model in the Lady Cop Chic section of Vogue. She knew full well that any faint hope she had of ever getting out of this depended on her crawling and groveling like a whipped dog to these two, and yet something in her that she didn’t understand seemed to take on a perverse life of its own. “I see the Monkey, so I guess you must be the Mami,” she snarled at them.
Martínez leaned over the table, and like lightning she lashed out in a vicious slap across Kicky’s face, almost knocking her out of the chair. “Inmates in this Justice Center are prohibited from using racial or ethnic slurs, derogatory references to anyone based on race or sexual preference or national origin, or other hateful language, Ms. McGee,” she said. “It’s not only a violation of JC regulations, it’s a violation of the hatespeech section of the penal code. If you do so again you will be charged with felony hatespeech in addition to first degree murder. I suggest you take heed. You’re in trouble enough.”
“Watch yo’ mouf, bitch,” added Jarvis.
Martínez took the file and slammed it onto the desk in front of Kicky. “We’ve got you cold. Your previous assault on your pimp with a blunt instrument is the icing on the cake. You’re gone, girl. I’m offering you one chance for a deal. One only. You will plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Leonard Gillis and I can arrange it with the DA so you get twelve to twenty. As an added sweetener, since I’m feeling generous this morning, I can arrange for you to serve your sentence in a medium security facility so you won’t have to go back to Coffee Creek. This is as good as it’s going to get, Kristin. Take it or leave it.”
“They call me Kicky,” said the girl sullenly.
“Of course they do,” sighed Martínez.
Don’t I get a lawyer?” she demanded.
“Technically speaking, since 9/11 the state no longer has to provide you with one, depending on whether we want to file this as a security case under the Patriot Act, but in Portland the powers that be do like to keep up appearances. So yes, if you want I can get you a legal aid attorney,” explained Lainie. “Any such attorney will almost certainly be black, Hispanic, Jewish, gay, female, or some combination of the above, and probably will hold as little brief for white trailer trash crack whores like you as I do, and they will advise you to take the deal I’m offering.”
“I suppose the fact that I didn’t kill Lenny doesn’t have a damned thing to do with anything?” Kicky demanded bitterly.
“No, of course it doesn’t,” responded Lainie with another sigh.
“What about justice?” cried Kicky.
“This is a legal matter. Justice has nothing to do with it,” explained Lainie irritably, irked at the girl’s stubborn stupidity. “I can’t believe you’ve been on the streets as long as you have, and you still don’t know how it works.”
Kicky’s self-control finally snapped. “No!” she screamed in uncontrollable rage. “Fuck you! Fuck both of you! I didn’t do anything, God damn you both to hell! I didn’t do anything! I didn’t kill Lenny, that nigger standing there did! You know it! I didn’t do anything!”
Martínez stood up and slapped Kicky across the face again, but more or less pro forma, without anger or enthusiasm. “Suit yourself, you stupid little twist,” she said in disgust. “Don’t you ever say I didn’t try and help you. First degree murder and a life sentence it is. I suggest you watch your language in Judge Feinstein’s court. He’s not going to believe any wild stories you come up with about a respected and decorated police officer killing your pimp, and if you keep on using racial slurs and try to offer perjured testimony against an African American officer, you need to remember that hatecrime carries life without parole. So go ahead, jump up in court and yell out your stupid lies, and really fuck yourself over forever. Hell, maybe it’s for the best. Wealthy and decent couples all over the U.S.A are going to be lining up around the block for that little girl of yours. Maybe you’re doing the right thing after all by permanently taking yourself out of the picture.” She and Jarvis turned and opened the door to leave.
Kicky stared in horror. She knew that the door wasn’t just closing on the interrogation room. It was closing on her, her whole life, on her daughter. They were going to take Ellie now. She had lost. They were going to take Ellie.
As the door closed, Kicky jumped up and screamed at the top of her lungs, “I can give you the NVA! Fucking spic bitch, you hear me? I can give you NVA! I know where they are! I can give you that sniper, that guy they call the Cat! I can give you two the NVA, you bitch, you baboon! Just let me go! Please, God, I didn’t do anything, please let me go, please don’t take my baby!” She collapsed onto the table top, weeping hysterically.
The door opened.