Who Is Anthony Stephens?

The Life and Death of a College Grad

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131. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 21

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28 June 2011

– Well. I don’t know. It’s pretty much a dead issue now, isn’t it?

– Nobody can really do anything about it, no matter what happens. He’s gone. Nothing will bring him back.

– What do I wish? I guess that—I just wish that true justice existed on this planet.

– And I mean, not the type of justice that this country prides itself in—where they base judgments off of tangible evidence, facts that you can see and make calculated decisions or whatever. I’m talking about true internal justice. Cosmic justice, if you want to get all corny about it.

– The type of justice that would make a guilty man go insane with remorse before he even committed the crime in the first place.

– I wish our positions in life were based off of our present-day character and not what we’ve done or haven’t done in the past.

– I don’t know. Maybe if things were that way, Tony would still be here with us right now. Francisco’s father would be here to help raise him—our child, with me.

– Maybe he wouldn’t have had to die the way he did.

– No. Earl did what he meant to do. And I don’t wish anything on him but justice. Not revenge, justice. I hate him for what I know he did, but there’s nothing that can be done about that anymore. And, sucks to say it, but if you look at it realistically there are a lot more elements at fault than just him.

– I’d say genetics. Its human genes primarily that are at fault when anything like this ever happens. We’re all screwed up from birth, when you get down to it. Tony was human, and I’ll always remember him like that. For what he was, and what he wasn’t. That’s the closest thing to true justice I can give him.

– Sure, I have one in my wallet. I like to show it to Francisco so he can see what his father looked like. Don’t want him not to know. [Ms. D’Amico pulls a picture out of her purse] He was so handsome, this one doesn’t do him justice.

– Yeah, he was pretty tall, even though it might just be because I’m short, I don’t know.

-Well, about your height actually. And your build.

– He had strong hands from all that drawing and painting, lots of veins showing, like how you have those veins on the back interweaving? They were kind of like that. Wide like that too, and the same skin texture, darker than you though, from working outside I guess.

– Matter of fact [Ms. D’Amico frowns, scratches her thigh absently] If you shaved, cut your hair—and if that little bump on your nose weren’t there, your mouth was a little wider, brown eyes—are those contacts? [Ms. D’Amico stands suddenly, taking a step back and squinting then putting a hand to her mouth, eyes wide] No—

End Interview

130. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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1-27-10:
 
Been thinking about the future a lot lately, same way I did when I first got in here. Went away for a while but it’s back now, that same uncertainty, with less of the pleasantries.
 
I keep hearing that recurring line from The Matrix in my head, like the words the entire movie runs off, the shit Morpheus and Trinity and everybody keep whispering in Neo’s ear the whole time:
 
“You’re going to have to make a choice.”
 
Everybody in that fucking movie says that to everybody else. Make a choice, make a choice, come with us or don’t, red pill or blue pill, inside the matrix or outside, live or die.
 
But, see, I feel like my choice was already made for me a long time ago. I made the initial decision, sure, but it led to a lot of other decisions that I had no control over.
 
Guess that’s what you call consequences.
 
I’m being released tomorrow. Never thought I’d make it through this. I almost feel like leaving this journal in the cell for the next person to find. Or sending it to somebody who’s on trial right now or, better yet, somebody who’s just about to do something that’s going to alter the course of their life forever. Let them know the stipulations of living a “free” life in this fucked up society.
 
But it wouldn’t matter, I know it.
 
People are going to do what they want no matter what you tell them. It’s the way nature built us, the way it’ll probably build whatever species takes our place in the future.
 
You don’t believe that, watch Planet of the Apes sometime. You might learn something, like we’re only on top now because nobody’s kicked us off yet. And that upsetting any balance in this world will always come back to bite you in the ass.
 
This isn’t a moral I’m trying to set up for you, whoever you are reading this right now. I’m just stating the truth.
 
When you die, everything you gained, everything you lost, it doesn’t matter anymore.
 
It’s the most beautiful fact in the world, and it also makes everything completely fucking pointless, which is why I know that after you’re done reading this, you’re going to go right back to what you were doing before you picked this journal up, whether it’s smoking crack or fighting in the streets or getting your degree.
 
Either way, end result’s the same, right?
 
Right.

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128. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 18

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11 July 2011

– You probably think you know me now, son.

– You don’t, bruh. I ain’t one of these other niggas out there, son. I’m settin’ up a empire right now.

– I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout slangin’ shit neither, I’m talkin’ ‘bout record label type shit.

– You see, I’ma be on some Roc-A-Fella shit. Straight up Jay-Z-type bread.

– Have me a fam a my own someday too, and I’ma make it right for them, son. I ain’t found a honey yet who I’d be liable to settle with, but it’s goin’ happen one a these days. And it’s goin’ be a real fam, not like how me and Earl was raised. And when it do happen, it’s goin’ be perfect, son. You goin’ hear ‘bout it, ‘bout Classic walkin’ round with his kids and baby mom’s and shit, and my kids goin’ know I’ma be there for ‘em at the end a the day, know what I’m sayin’?

– Not like my pops. Not like Earl’s pops. Muhfucka’s goin’ depend on me, son. Believe that.

 [There’s a long pause as Wayne stares out the window, jaw clenched, then he  turns and speaks quietly] Man, I think about Earl every muhfuckin’ day. Every time somebody come ‘round lookin’ for some product, knockin’ on my door and shit, or Sheila—landlady—come ‘round lookin’ for rent, I think its Earl out there with his bag and that damn notebook.

– Part a me do. Part a me be wondering where he at every day, what went down with him and that nigga Tony, if he ever got what he needed out the shit.

– I remember the last thing Earl told me ‘fore he walked out that door, bruh. He said, Classic, I ain’t goin’ be remembered for this. Not for who I am right now. I’m goin’ be better than this, create some new memories, bruh, get rid a the past and start fresh.

– Said that shit then walked out, and I been wantin’ to talk to the muhfucka ever since. Tell him, I got you, bruh. [Wayne nods and puts a hand over his heart] I got you, know what I’m sayin’?

– We all got that dream, bruh. Earl took that shit in his own hands. I wanna tell him I got mad love for him, but he ain’t leave me no contact or nothin’, and I ain’t ‘bout to go lookin’ for the nigga.

– ‘Cause, bruh. I can’t.

– Not knowin’ what happened to Earl is some bullshit, yeah. Can’t stand it, not knowin’ if he aight or not. But, son—I gave him that piece.

– That Smith and Wes I got him, that’s aidin’ and abettin’, bruh.

– I ain’t sayin’ Earl a snitch or nothin’, but he might let it slip by accident I’m the one gave him that piece. Anything happen to him and I’m anywhere in the area, they goin’ be gunnin’ for me next.

– I love Earl, bruh, but like I told you when you came up in here wavin’ yo’ money ‘round askin’ questions and shit. I gotta look out for me and mine’s. For real. Now, what up with that cash, bruh?

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127. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 20

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28 June 2011

– No problem. Just glad to get it all off my chest.

– It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, I admit that. Not anymore, at least. I love Frankie, our baby. I see a lot of Tony in him sometimes. Other times I see a lot of me. Both make me happy.

– He’s too young to understand it now, but I promised him the day he was born—lying in the hospital, holding him in that huge blanket they give you—that he’d grow up to have everything I could possibly give him. His father left us enough, what with the money in the mail and the exhibition and all.

– Yeah, a few days after he died I got a package, no return address. It was his handwriting, opened it up and there’s—let’s just say it was enough to take me through the pregnancy and those first few months.

– Found out a few days after that Tony had put me down as the benefactor on his contract with my aunt, so we got all the sales from his paintings too.

– It’s not a fortune, not enough to live off forever. But it’s enough to give our son a semi-normal upbringing, minus any hardship.

– And, I mean, I’m back at work now obviously. Gave up bartending for a full-time position at my aunt’s gallery as her assistant. Pay’s good, I get to be around a lot of art, and my boss is a family member so it’s fun. Most of the time. When she’s not being a Nazi. And, to tell you the truth, I think things are as normal now as they’ll ever be.

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126. Interview with Graham Baker: Part 3

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16 July 2011

– Listen, the basic gist of it all is you’ve got to make a decision when you’re getting involved with making a new life for yourself.

– There’s two types of disappearing acts: pseudocide, and just plain disappearing.

– The former produces a death certificate and is illegal, makes people think you’re actually not a part of humanity anymore and is a pretty big undertaking.

– But if you just can’t take shit anymore, if things are just that bad, then that’s a different story. There’s no laws against just packing up and leaving.

– If you don’t want to be found, though, pseudocide’s the most convincing. People have a tendency to leave you alone when they think you’re dead.

– It’s a process you have to go through, though. I’ve seen the process fulfilled, and it takes work. Work and lots of research. My book will tell you, pick it up when you get a chance.

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125. Interview with Dr. Aileen Parks: Part 5

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16 July 2011

– No, sir. Tuition costs are only a small portion of the actual costs of getting a university education.

– The average yearly cost of room and board in the ’09-’10 school year—remember, you’ve got to live somewhere—was $8,200. For books and supplies, $1,100. If you didn’t have a laptop—a necessity in this information age—add another $700 to that, minimum.

– Combine that with tuition and you’ve got over $13,000 a year for college-related expenses alone.

– Throw in health insurance for good measure, transportation costs, miscellaneous expenses, and what you’ve got then is an average American college student who could choose to work a part time job during their tenure at Whatever-State University, to supplement expenses, and still would end up leaving school with more debt than they could handle.

– Add that all up and what you’ve got is a generation of people—children—who are victims of the most profitable system of legal American slavery since the pre-civil war era.

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122. Interview with Dr. Aileen Parks: Part 4

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16 July 2011

– That’s understandable. It is a bit confusing.

– To put it in perspective, tuition rate increases at U.S. colleges have, percentage wise, rivaled health care inflation for years now.

– And, as you probably know if you’ve been paying attention to your insurance premiums, the health care industry is widely considered to be one of the most money-hoarding in the country, so it’s a pretty hefty feat to nearly match up with them.

– In the early ‘90’s, a year at a private university would’ve cost you an average of around $10,000. Public universities, an average of $2,000 a year.

– At the beginning of the 2000’s decade, the average public college tuition had risen by 85% to almost $4,000 a year. Private college nearly doubled as well, to just under $20,000 a year. Current tuition rates are rising at a rate of about 6.5% a year. Health care rises at a little over 8.

– Compare that to a 3.5% average yearly increase in base family income across the country, and you can see where the problem lies.

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119. Interview with Dr. Aileen Parks: Part 3

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16 July 2011

– It means a lot of things. The main thing though is that college education has lost a lot of its—vigor, per se.

– Statistically, 47% of high school graduates in 1973 continued with their education and received their bachelor’s degree. That’s less than half of America’s youth. By October 2008, that number rose to 70%. Seven out of ten Americans graduating high school in 2008 have gone on to pursue their Bachelor’s.

– Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of recent college grads rose to a record 10.6% in that same year.

– With an oversupply of graduates, the necessity to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool prompted a surge in students pursuing postgraduate degrees, with the number of freshman planning to go to graduate school rising from 31% in 1972 to 42% in 2008.

– With this comes added expenses. Graduate school tuition is higher than undergraduate, as is—generally—the cost of living.

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115. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 19

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28 June 2011

– When I left the police station I spent the car ride back to my apartment trying to forget about my visit there. Forget about everything actually, except just convincing myself it was over.

– Kept telling myself the whole way home, he’s dead, Cathy. Dead. Gone, for good. I repeated it to myself over and over the whole way, told myself I would never see him again, that I’d be raising this baby by myself, that it didn’t matter how he died or who did it, he was dead. No coming back. I told myself to admit it, deep down, and everything would be okay in the long run. I just had to repeat it, understand it, embrace it.

– When I got home, I searched my apartment for anything and everything that had any connection to him. A sweatshirt I’d taken from his place, a couple of t-shirts he’d left at mine when he spent the night. A box of pictures, the few times he let me take some of him. And that was about it. And that’s when it all hit me, everything I’d been feeling as far as the mysteriousness of Tony for our entire relationship.

– I remembered what Detective Fletcher had just told me—come back when you have something concrete. And I thought about how I never really had anything concrete when it came to Tony. I never really knew him at all, actually.

– Searching for signs of him around my apartment, all I came up with were a couple of memories and a seed in my stomach. And, I thought it would be hard, to admit to myself that this man I barely knew had barged into my life, stomped around, then left just as swiftly. And it was hard. But it was doable. I cried when I lay in bed that night, but for the first time in over a year it wasn’t for Tony. It was for me.

– It felt good. As good as it could at that moment, at least. Which was something.


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112. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 18

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28 June 2011

– No, I don’t think it was suicide.

– I know it wasn’t, I don’t care what they say [Ms. D’Amico pauses then sighs] I don’t know why I cared so much. About the investigation, I mean, not Tony. He was already dead, nothing I could do about it then. But I went to the police station anyways, on the verge of hysteria, and asked—demanded—to speak to whoever was assigned to Tony’s—Les’s—case.

– They sent me to Detective Fletcher’s office, and he looked at me so—bored. Like the moment I saw him I knew he wasn’t going to help me or listen to me or believe anything I had to say about Earl.

– I explained to him who I was, ended up having to tell him that I was pregnant with Tony’s—Les’s—baby just to get his attention. First person I’d told besides Tony himself, and even then Fletcher still didn’t give a shit. Didn’t know me from Jane Doe, and I knew it was pointless but before I could stop myself I’m spewing all this stuff about Les already having everything so hard and he was just coming out of it and this is ridiculous, that they’re not even investigating. Then I just blurted it out, that he didn’t kill himself.

– I don’t know. He didn’t believe me. He’d already made his decision, I could tell, I could see it in his eyes. God. And I couldn’t have looked like a very credible witness, with my nose running and my eyes all red and puffy and smeared makeup and all.

– “Really?” That’s what he said to me. “Really?” In this mocking tone, then “If he didn’t, then who did?”

– I wanted to tell him Earl did it. I wanted to tell him everything actually. But right then I saw how he was looking at me, expectantly, but in a scornful way, like he was waiting for me to tell him a stupid joke, so he could patronize me. And I knew then this man didn’t have Tony’s best intentions in mind. Then I thought about how I’d be betraying Tony anyways if I told this man anything. I had sworn to Tony I wouldn’t tell anybody about his situation and—I don’t know. He had just died, and it hadn’t really hit me yet that he was gone.

– In my mind, he was still sitting in his motel room, painting, or maybe working on somebody’s house or something.

– I couldn’t tell anybody what he’d been through. That would be admission that my promise to him didn’t matter anymore, which would have been admission of a lot of other things I didn’t want to deal with.

– So I told Detective Fletcher I didn’t know who killed Les Palmer. I just know he didn’t kill himself.  He got kind of suspicious at that, at my hesitation I guess, asked me if I had any evidence, at which point I got kind of frustrated because I knew where this was going.

– You see it happen all the time in movies and on TV: the cop asks if the person has any evidence and  the person always says no and then the police say come back when you have something concrete, which the witness usually goes out and gets at some point, on their own, almost getting killed in the process, which is the whole point of the film. This wasn’t a movie though, and I knew it would dead end in that detective’s office.

– I mean, it’s cliché, I know, but I allowed myself a little bit of hope anyways. No point to it, but I still told Detective Fletcher that I didn’t need evidence, I was just absolutely sure Tony—Les—did not kill himself. He just needed to investigate it.

– He sighed, ran a hand over his head and told me to come back when I had something concrete.

– Another cliché, I guess. Everybody knows there’s no point in screaming at detectives once they say something like that, all they’ll do is have you kicked out. But I did it anyways.

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109. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 17

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28 June 2011; 14:32:

– I feel like I must have known what had happened, felt it somehow.

– I mean, on some level at least. I don’t know, it’s just weird how things happened.

– Well, after I stormed out of Tony’s show I went straight home and curled up in bed, turned off my phone and fell asleep almost immediately.

– I was drained, emotionally, physically, still feeling the effects of morning sickness and Tony’s appearance and—just overall pretty miserable.

– So I slept, but I kept waking up the whole night, for no reason. And seeing things, weird objects in the semi-darkness of my apartment with the street light shining in through my window casting shadows across everything.

– One of the times I woke up, I could have sworn there was blood on my sheets, like a big puddle of it near my lap. But when I jumped up it was nothing but another shadow and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Besides the obvious, but that didn’t explain why I was so jittery, like I was scared somebody was going to attack me or something.

– I lay in bed like that most of the night, drifting off for a little then waking up abruptly, sweating through the t-shirt I was wearing—one of Tony’s actually,  I remember—and I just couldn’t stop thinking about losing the baby. The thought terrified me, which is why I say I must have known what happened to him.

– Because I knew Francisco—the baby, I mean, he wasn’t Francisco yet—was the only part of Tony I had left.

– Yeah. Another thing. When I finally gave up and got out of bed at six, I walked straight to the TV.

– I never watch TV in the morning though, ever. I usually eat breakfast and read a little, shower, blow dry my hair, call one of my friends or just leave, go to work, go somewhere. I don’t like staying around the house during the day.

– But, for some reason, that morning I wanted to just sit on the couch and watch the news. And also, I wasn’t surprised. When I turned on the TV and heard them talking about him, I wasn’t surprised.

– It was a short report, ten, maybe fifteen seconds, and all I heard was something about a gun and a fire and then they flashed Tony’s face with the name Les Palmer under it across the screen twice, a pretty bad picture someone had taken of him screaming into a microphone.

– The only thing that surprised me that morning was when I heard the words “apparent suicide,” and I immediately thought of Earl.

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105. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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5-22-09:
 
If I remember correctly, Isaac Newton’s the one who said for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
 
I hear that and I believe that Newton was more than just a scientist. He knew things about life, real shit.
 
You fuck one thing up, something else has got to come around and balance it out, eventually. Because balance is the only reason we even exist.
 
There’s patterns in everything, in our minds, in the way nature exists. For example, humans are part of the Bilateria classification of animals, which includes all the organisms on earth that have bilateral symmetry, which is the balance of body parts or shapes on either side. Almost everything you’ve got on one side of your body has a twin on the other side. Lung, rib, brain hemispheres, kidney, testicle, ovary, facial nerve, eye, nostril, breast, arm, leg, fibula and patella and femur and clavicle.
 
There’s two sides to everything. One’s got to support the other to keep the balance.
 
If one of your kidneys gives out, the other’s got to pick up the slack. Same for every other part of your body. If not, things aren’t balanced, and you die.
 
Chinese philosophers came up with the term yin and yang to explain how two opposite things can still be connected to each other. They said the connection’s necessary for the natural world to exist.
 
There’s two poles on our planet, the north and the south. Magnetic fields set up directly opposite each other. Without them, we’d spin off into another galaxy like the universe just slung a fastball.
 
And you’ve heard the saying “an eye for an eye.” Everybody’s heard it before, I know I have. What I didn’t know, what I found out with all my free reading time in this godforsaken place, was the phrase came from the bible. Exodus, Chapter 21, verses twenty four and twenty five:
 
“And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
 
See, every movie, every story’s got a protagonist and an antagonist. There’s the main character or characters, and there’s the people or events that fuck with those main characters’ lives. Without one or the other, you’ve got no conflict. No conflict, no story, the movie never gets made, people never get educated.
 
Good don’t exist without evil, happiness ain’t shit without sadness, and you can’t die if you were never born.
 
So, you see, it isn’t anger or revenge or anything like that why I plan to take Tony’s life when I get out of here. Tony Stephens was maybe the greatest person I ever had the pleasure of getting to know, and I’ll always appreciate having that opportunity, for the rest of my life.
 
I’m just trying to balance things out.
 

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104. Interview with Jeff Kinsey: Part 2

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27 June 2011

– Man, way he was acting, was like he was on acid or something and having a bad trip.

– I’m driving and looking through the rearview at this guy in my back seat and he’s looking out the back window at the street, all edgy and shit. Excuse the language.

– Honestly, though, I should’ve expected it, don’t know why he had me so spooked. Once I saw his picture at that gallery, I should’ve known he was a nutcase. It explained everything.

– I’ve been in Boca my whole life, almost thirty-seven years now. And if there’s one thing I realized, it’s that these artist-types aren’t any different from the crack heads that hang out over beach side, begging people for cash. Just so you can get a little peace and quiet.

– They’ll tell you that over there, won’t bullshit you—excuse my language—they’ll just tell you straight up that they’ll leave you alone if ya give ‘em a dollar, boss, just a dollar, boss. I’m fiendin’, ain’t nothin’ but a little ol’ dollar, boss.

– Not true, though. Reality is, crack heads’ll bother you more after you give them something than if you’d just kept walking and ignored them. They’ll figure out how to get their fix eventually. Remember that. Only difference between artists and crack heads is artist’s addictions are legal.

– Other than that, it’s the same shit. Excuse the language, but it is. They’re all twitchy and sensitive, get riled up easily over things that ain’t even there.

– This guy in my backseat, he was no different. So I told myself he’s just another artist slash crackhead, kept an eye on him just to make sure he wasn’t gonna go all van Gogh on me, and pretty much minded my own business otherwise.

– Not at first. He didn’t say much for the ride, just kept staring out the window. We’re almost to the address he gave me though when suddenly he pokes his head up front and he—I tell you, he acts real artist-like, that’s what he does.

– I mean, the guy just confirms everything I believed for years. Looks at me, breathing all hard with one of his eyelids kind of twitching, and asks me if I’ve ever tried to run from my past. Then he looks out the window again then back at me and says, it’s like running in a circle. You always end up back at the beginning.

– That’s what he said. I’ll tell you right now, I was damn glad to get that guy out of my car. Messed me up, the look he had in his eye, mouth twisted around like his insides was on fire or something, like he was in physical pain, you know?

– Couldn’t sit still. I’m telling you, just like a crack head.

– Routine hasn’t been exactly the same since. I mean, for the most part it is. Still got the vanilla body spray, the air freshener, the brush-down of the seats. Still rev the engine and take my deep breath and back out the depot real slow like.

– But sometimes now, some days when I just ain’t up for the challenge, you’ll see me heading back that way, opposite Antique Row, over by beach side.

– Sure I got to deal with the crackheads playing Frogger in the middle of the road and the drunk college kids who only come out at night, like they’re fucking vampires or something, excuse the language. But at least they’re predictable. I always know what they’re going to do next, whether it’s throwing up in the backseat or sticking half their body out the window.

– It’s a lot easier to adjust to something when you know exactly what’s going to happen, let me tell you.

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102. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 16

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26 June 2011

– No, didn’t see him once. And after two days, I was pretty pissed.

– I mean, it was wrong to tell him how I did, but I didn’t think it was worth him just disappearing like that.

– So I convinced myself that I was done. Showed up to work those two days looking half-dead, told my friends about everything, soaked up their responses, really had myself convinced Tony was, like, the Antichrist.

– Told myself, no more. I. Am. Done. I’d rather raise my baby alone than be with his or her psychotic, unreliable father.

– But it was all bullshit. The whole time I was telling myself and my friends all this, the only thing I wanted was for Tony to show up at my apartment door.

– I was worried about him. I hadn’t realized until then that I’d felt like his protector all this time. Knowing he was out there, wandering around aimlessly, it made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted him to come back to me, to safety.

– But he didn’t, and I cried about it and after the anger faded a little, I pretty much cooped myself up in my apartment until the night of his showing. I would’ve stayed in that night too, actually, if I wasn’t such a mess over him. I even told myself—when I did decide to go—that I was only doing it to help out my aunt. But I wasn’t. I hoped that Tony would show up, wished that he would.

– I waited around that whole night, watching the people fill up the main room and look at Tony and the other artist’s pieces. Watched them get restless late in the evening when Tony’s part of the presentation was delayed because he hadn’t showed yet.

– My aunt, high strung as she is, handled it pretty well. Considering. She hissed at me a couple of times, told me if Tony didn’t show she’d make sure nobody ever saw so much as a stick figure drawing of his ever again.

– I stayed in the back, away from the crowd, watching and waiting.

– Then? He just showed up.

– I was standing there upset, all alone. Then I felt this brush of air and looked over and there he was. Standing next to me and staring at the crowd as if he’d been there the whole time. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak, so I just stared at him. He looked beautiful too, I remember. And, I mean, I was so relieved I couldn’t even be pissed. Then he turned to me, looked me in my eyes and brushed my cheek—God [Cathy pauses for a moment, her eyes welling up. She sniffs and starts picking at her nails]

– He looked at me and… he looked at me and then looked at my stomach and said…”take care of him.”

– Those exact four words. Then he walked into the main room.

– And, I mean, the way he said that, it hurt. A lot. Me, I thought he’d basically just told me he wouldn’t be there to help me raise our baby. That he didn’t want to, actually, and therefore he wouldn’t. That he’d given up on me and us and was going off to bigger and better things with this Les Palmer bit and his paintings and all that. Travel the world and revel in success and—I got all of that out of just those four words.

– I didn’t want to be there anymore after that, so I left and went back to my apartment. If I had known that was the last time I’d see him alive, I might have stuck around a little longer. Or not. No way to know for sure, though, is there?

– That’s the funny thing about death. [Cathy shakes her head and sniffs] When it comes to that, there is no retrospect.

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101. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 17

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11 July 2011

– Day after Earl quit, he comes at me with this shit I’da never thought I’d hear from his ass.

– Walks straight up on me at the crib and he’s like Classic, I need a piece.

– A gun, son. And bruh, Earl ain’t never called me Classic in his life.

– Was like I wasn’t even looking at fam no mo’, son. Nigga was a G now, know what I’m sayin’?

– That’s how he ran up on me, like we wasn’t fam, like we was business partners and shit. When he said that, that he needed a piece, I was like, a piece a what? Pussy?

– I’d been waitin’ for that bruh. You gotta need some pussy bein’ locked up for long as that nigga was, son. I coulda got him some too, bruh, no problem.

– But naw. Earl ain’t want none a that. Earl looked at me like I was stupid when I said that shit, too, and I felt stupid ‘cause, ain’t yo younger cuz—the nigga you helped raise up out the hood—supposed to stay yo little cuz forever?

– Shit, Earl wasn’t nobody’s little nothin’ no mo’, son. I know what he needed the piece for too, and I wasn’t goin’ stop the nigga from gettin’ his.

– So I call up one a my associates and tell him ta give me something small, ‘cause I know what Earl need for what he after, know what I’m sayin’?

– Got it to him the next day and Earl lookin’ at it like it’s his ticket to heaven, bruh. I’m lookin’ at the nigga and he lookin’ at his new toy and I gotta ask him, bruh. I gotta ask, Earl, why you call me Classic yesterday? You ain’t never called me Classic in yo’ life.

– And Earl says to me, that’s what people’s call you. Classic. It’s what you wanna be called. Man got a right to be called what he want, be what he wanna be. Do what he wanna do.

– He said all that shit, then he raised the piece and pointed it at the wall and smiled. First time I seen Earl smile since I picked his ass up from the bus station too. Never forget it, nigga looked crazy as hell, son. Scary shit, for real.

– Yeah, I thought ‘bout stoppin’ him. While he was packin’ up his shit and tellin’ me what to tell his P.O. if the muhfucka called, all that shit. Stood by the door to the bathroom while he was shavin’ off his beard, cuttin’ his hair, and I tried to tell him to stop the shit.

– But, bruh, Earl looked happy, son. First time since I picked his ass up from the bus station. He’s droppin’ his hair in the sink, starin’ in the mirror, and his eyes ain’t all angry lookin’ like they been for weeks. They smilin’, son. They smilin’ and when he was done, he smiled at me for real. Smiled, and the nigga looked like Earl again, bruh. I couldn’t stop the nigga when he was like that.

– Earl said fuck ‘em, son, told me to tell his P.O. the truth. I remember that. Told me if his P.O. called, I should tell his ass Earl had some shit to take care of so he bounced and he ain’t comin’ back. And, yeah, bruh, I was thinkin’ I should stop the nigga then too, from violatin’ his parole, from leavin’ here. He fuckin’ things up for himself, know what I’m sayin’? He fam, Classic. That’s what I said to myself. He fam. Stop him.

– But I couldn’t, bruh. Couldn’t even tell the nigga it was a bad idea. ‘Cause, for real, how I’m s’posed to know it’s a bad idea?

– Bruh, can’t nobody know what the fuck Earl was going through but Earl, know what I’m sayin’?

– Me tellin’ the nigga he need to stay his ass in Queens, that’s like me tellin’ you, straight up, I know who you is, son. I been through the same shit you been through in yo’ life, and I’m tellin’ you you doin’ it wrong, ‘cause I know better than you ‘bout who you is, bruh, know what I’m sayin’?

– But I ain’t know what Earl been through. I ain’t know shit ‘bout what Earl had goin’ on up in his head. I ain’t know shit ‘bout what he had planned for Tony neither.

– So, yeah, I let his ass go. You could write that shit down, son. I gave my cuz a gun and let him violate parole and go off to take some nigga out ‘cause he been through some shit I can’t relate to, bruh. And how I’ma look telling a nigga not to do somethin’ I probably’d a done my damn self if I was in his position?

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100. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 15

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26 June 2011

– Well, I had to tell him. Couldn’t just hide it, that would have made things worse later on.

– But see, while I was trying to figure out how to tell Tony I was pregnant, there was something going on in Tony’s head I didn’t know about either.

– He’d started acting really weird the closer it got to his showing. I mean, weirder than usual. Really paranoid. And after I found out I was pregnant—before I told him—he got downright crazy.

– Like, he’d be sitting there with me on the bed watching TV or something and I’d be racking my brain, telling myself to tell him now. Tell him your pregnant now. And it’d seem like he knew I had something to tell him, something he didn’t want to hear, because all of a sudden he’d hop up from the bed and say he changed his mind, he didn’t want to do the art show, he needed me to call my aunt and cancel it. Then, five minutes later, he’d change his mind again and ask me for reassurance, ask me if I really believed everything would be alright. It was so weird to see him like that, like one minute he’d have the resolve of Ghandhi and the next he’d be like a twelve year old foster kid.

– Well, like, one afternoon, about three days before the showing, we were getting ready to go get something to eat and he pulled the same stunt again. Just said, calmly and without any anger, that he wouldn’t be doing the showing anymore. It was about the fourth time he’d done that in as many days and, once again, right at that moment, I’d been about to tell him I was pregnant. It was the breaking point, you know?

– Too much pressure, I just snapped.

– I turned around and yelled at him to stop being a little bitch. That he was under contract with my aunt, that she had a lot of people coming out to this thing and he couldn’t back out, no matter how many times he changed his fucking mind, not if he ever wanted to sell so much as a scrap of paper with his name on it ever again. So stop bitching about it and pay attention to somebody besides yourself for once.

– I remember he looked at me so surprised, then his face got really dark and he started grinding his teeth. He always did that right before he went off. Only this time I beat him to the punch, just kept on ranting, let out all the animosity that had been building up in me. Told him I was tired of his crap, tired of this flip-flop thing he kept pulling with everything, told him I needed somebody stable, somebody willing to commit, somebody willing to be a father. And when he looked at me kind of confused, I yelled, “I’m pregnant you son of a bitch” [Cathy chuckles, her eyes gleaming] and immediately felt like shit so I ran out of his room and hopped in my car and left.

– Yeah, definitely not the way I wanted to tell him.

– I don’t really know exactly how you’re supposed to tell somebody like Tony something like that though.

– But that didn’t feel right. It felt shitty, actually. Really shitty.

– To my credit, I drove around until I cooled off and then went back to apologize. That was my intention at least.

– When I got there it had been about an hour since I stormed out, and I knocked on Tony’s room door but there was no answer. I waited outside that room in my car for most of the afternoon before giving up and going home. Tony never showed up.

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98. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 14

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26 June 2011

– Good, most days. An ordeal the others.

– I never knew how he was going to react to anything I told him. It’s like, sometimes I’d come to him with some sort of news, simple things, the type of things girls like to tell their boyfriends, you know?

– Like, if something happened to me at work or while I was with one of my friends or whatever, I’d tell him, share it with him. And sometimes he’d just snap.

– Kick me out of his room, not talk to me for hours.

– Other times I’d come to him with something I was sure would set him off, like, talking about his showing at my aunt’s gallery, or asking him about all the stuff that happened to him in Tallahassee. I’d be scared when I approached him because I really wanted to know but I didn’t want to be crucified for asking, you know? But a lot of those times he’d be fine. Talk to me calmly, no anger.

– Not all the time, but a lot of the times. Enough for me to not really ever know whether we were going to have a good day together or not.

– Like I said, I don’t know if he was clinically bipolar or what, but I know that half the time I was with him he made feel like shit. But it was almost worth it, because the rest of the time he’d treat me like a goddess.

– Which is why it was so hard when I found out.

[Cathy sighs] I had no idea what to expect when I woke up that morning. It was like a week before his showing too, and we hadn’t stayed with each other the night before because we’d gotten in a fight about something or other and I stormed out of his motel room all pissed off. Went home and fell asleep watching TV and when I woke up and got out of bed my stomach was crawling, I remember.

– I barely made it to the bathroom in time and I was bent over the toilet, sick for almost half an hour before I could stand and, I mean—I knew what it was. It was pretty obvious at that point.

– There’d been other signs too, pain in my breasts, bloating, all the signs of PMS without the actually period.

– And, I mean, I threw up a lot that first morning. So either that or food poisoning, right? [Cathy chuckles] I went straight to CVS and got two tests, took one, waited, took the other, then laid them both next to each other and just stared at them sitting on the bathroom counter.

– My mind went blank for a minute, and when it recovered I didn’t know what to think about so I just started crying.

– But it wasn’t like how most people would think a girl in my situation would cry. It wasn’t like I was sad or happy, or anything really. I was just… emotional. That’s it. Just emotional. I was staring at the pregnancy test and this rush of emotion I couldn’t label hit me and I just cried and cried until the two little blue positive lines on each test got all blurry, then I sat on the ground and cried some more. [Cathy pauses, staring at the floor deep in thought] I’ve thought about it since then. And I realized I saw so many things in that blue line, some things I didn’t want to see and others I kind of did.

– Tony and I had been together for a year then. And I was in love with him still, which was a plus, I guess. Would’ve been worse to be pregnant with his baby if we hadn’t been together anymore, especially if I hated him.

– But then again, it might’ve been better.

– Then at least I wouldn’t have cared what he thought. But the fact that I did care about this man and yet had no idea how he was going to react to the news of me being pregnant gave me this queasy feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with the morning sickness.

– I realized then that I barely even knew who Tony was. I only knew what he’d told me, that’s it. No secondhand accounts of his character traits for me to laugh and be like, “I know what you mean, he does that to me too.” No family or friends to get close to and get incriminating info out of. It was Just Tony.

– To Tony, it was always Just Tony. And now I was having Just Tony’s baby. And, sure, I knew things about him, things he hadn’t told me that I’d deciphered from his actions and random conversations and overall demeanor.

– I mean, I knew more than anybody else in Boca knew about, quote-unquote, “Les Palmer.” But that’s not saying very much.

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96. Interview with Jeff Kinsey: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Jeff Kinsey is the cab driver in Boca Raton who took Anthony Stephens home from his showing the night of his death.  Mr. Kinsey conducts his interview in his cab, driving past Antique Row and the many shops it holds, one of which is Veicht Studios.

27 June 2011

– Things aren’t the same now as they used to be. Try to switch things up now, so I don’t get too bored. Back then though, back when you’re talking about, I had a ritual.

– Everyday was the same: I’d walk up to the car before each shift, check the gas, the oil, put my rearview mirror in the right position, brush down the seats, spritz some of that vanilla body spray my wife bought me, hang a air freshener for a little insurance, climb in the car, turn on the engine, press the gas and let her purr for a bit, take a deep breath, reverse from the depot and head right over here. Antique Row.

– That’s how I started every shift, every afternoon Monday thru Friday, for almost six years.

– No, sir. Plenty of fares around. Antique Row was the primary source, though. I always drove here first because it’s close by the beach, the tourists, the money. There’s like, five different art galleries around here, you know?

– And they all serve that same sort of clientele, the type of people that love to throw money at things like paintings and sculptures and lamp posts and fucking waterfall swimming pools. Excuse the language. Irks me sometimes though, how these people’ll spend same as my year’s salary on decorations for their house.

– Oh, they was fine once they was in my cab.  Throw some of that cash my way, you can bark directions at me all you want. People’d climb in the backseat and start fiddling through their shopping bags and fanning themselves with hundred dollar bills and fondling each other, yapping on and on about what they was going to do when they got home with all this—shit they’d bought. Excuse the language. Get all excited offa sun tan oil and Benjamin Franklin’s.

– But, you know, these people paid my bills. Put milk in my fridge and toilet paper in my bathroom. Didn’t matter if I couldn’t stand the whole lot of them, I had to respect them.

– No need to wait on calls around here. Just drive out and wait, somebody’ll come. You can always tell the ones that need a ride too, by the lost in their eyes. Especially the New Yorkers. We get a lot of those. They’re used to cabs on every corner, it’s like an epidemic of them up there.

– Up there, you don’t gotta do much but hold your hand up and there’s like five or six cabbies fighting to give you a ride. The guy you’re asking about, though, fella from the art show that night, he was a local. Wack job though. Came out right there. [Mr. Kinsey points at Felicia Veicht’s art gallery as the car passes. In the window, there are a few patrons surveying paintings, Ms. Veicht speaking animatedly with one of them] I’m driving by and I’ve got to slam on my brakes because this idiot just runs out of the place, right in front of my car. He puts his hands on the hood and stares at me through the windshield like I’m Christ returned, then comes around that side and jumps in the backseat.

– Gallery was packed, too. People outside scattered like leaves, sipping champagne and laughing, and I can see through the front door that inside the place is bustling. I stare at the sign outside the front door and there’s a picture of the guy whose art they’re showing and I’ll be damned if the guy in the picture ain’t the same one’s in my backseat hunched over and peeking out the window, on all fours so his ass is in the air and his eyes are so wide I can see the red behind them. I look at where he’s looking out the back window and there’s nothing but more cars behind me, pissed off and honking because I won’t move.

– I ask the guy if he’s alright because, no matter if he’s raving mad, he’s still a client, and I still need my money.

– He tells me to just go and I did, even though I didn’t want to.

– How spooked that guy was, it was crazy. Even had me paranoid. Looking in my rearview every two seconds like death was coming after us both.

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93. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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1-12-09 (continued):
 
Prison gangs, they’re the purest friendship people in this position can have. Completely superficial but so damn effective.
 
Any one of these men would strangle another gang member in a fucking second if it’d benefit him, but the beauty of it’s that they all know that. Nobody’s naïve in here, because they’re all fucking criminals. Joe Schmo in cell block C don’t have to ask himself, “I wonder if that guy would fuck me over if he got the chance.” You’re damn right he would. And once you know something like that, you’ve got no choice but to live day to day.
 
Once you know something like that, going to sleep with all your fingers and toes intact makes waking up the next morning a fucking blessing.
 
Yes sir. I’m thinking now that some of these guys are happier in prison than they ever were outside.
 
Which brings me back to Tony, and my life in here. I’ve got this hope, because of Tony, and hope is fucking unhealthy in a place like this.
 
It’s like having cancer; once you catch it, your body and mind have no choice but to hold on and let it fester and grow until it’s all anybody sees in your eyes.
 
I’m an outsider in here. I see everything happening but I’m not involved. I can’t jump headfirst into prison culture because I don’t see myself as a true prisoner. Not the way y’all define prisoner at least. Which is Tony’s fault. I mean, I know I said earlier it wasn’t his fault, and it isn’t his fault that shit went down this way. I’m in here because of my own choices, my own plan.
 
But after reading his journal, it’s hard to fall into this prison game of friends and enemies. Waiting for the next backstab so you can grab your knife and get to doing some stabbing your damn self. Knowing so much about somebody who’s been through the same shitstorm I have, it makes me a little conceited.
 
Which can get you killed in a place like this.
 
Despite all the bullshit, I still jump up every time the guards come around with the mail, irrationally hoping Tony’s name’ll be on a letter slipped into my cell. Impossible, I know, but you know. I can’t help it. Haven’t received anything yet, and I think I might be starting to accept that I never will.
 
But with that acceptance there’s this little piece of regret that’s started bouncing around my skull, along with that flame of anger. I see things every once in a while, pictures that pop into my head when I close my eyes, whenever I think too long about the fire that night. Horrible, gruesome pictures. Haunting shit.
 
I haven’t heard from Silverstein in months now. I should’ve known when he promised to get me out in a year on good behavior. Should’ve known it was bullshit, and I kind of did, kind of prepared myself for the long haul. Impossible to prepare for this completely though. Fucking impossible, no matter how many times you watch Escape from Alcatraz.
 
I’m counting down, hoping this place doesn’t get me before I can get out.
 
 

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91. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 13

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26 June 2011

– When did things get complicated? [Cathy scoffs] When were they not complicated?

– The first time I really realized something was off about Tony’s—I don’t know—sanity, was the afternoon I first saw his art. Even though, I kind of believe he wanted me to see it all.

– He wouldn’t have just left the paintings and drawings out next to his bed like that if he didn’t want me to see, especially knowing I was coming over. He could have hidden them, the same way he had for all those months before that. But when I showed up, there they were, and they were beautiful. I mean, breathtaking.

– There was one of this woman sitting on a meadow staring at the sun.

– I mean, it looked like a photograph, that’s how good the detail was.

– When I asked him about it later, about the picture he’d had to use as a reference, he told me he did it from memory. And, I mean, when I found out even later that the woman was Louise, I was a little upset that she was that deeply embedded in his mind, I admit. I am a jealous person in certain situations. Who isn’t? But it was hard to look at those pictures and feel anything but awe.

– They were amazing. He was an artistic prodigy.

– I decided to show one to my aunt at her gallery, as a surprise to Tony. My aunt loved it, even though she got all pissed off at me for not telling her about Tony earlier. She’s kind of dramatic sometimes.

– Anyways, she immediately asked if there was more of his art, which there was. Dozens of pieces. It seemed that all Tony did in his free time since moving down here was paint and draw.

– He had a stack of blank canvasses under his bed in his motel room, sketch paper stacked on the bedside table, an easel set up next to his bed, and a bunch of paint and sketching pencils and charcoal. And I mean, that stuff costs money, high quality supplies. Between his unstable financial situation, the money he spent on painting materials, and his motel fees, it’s a wonder he had anything to eat.

– I seriously don’t know how he survived off of what he made doing jobs with the Mexicans. But he never complained about money, and he always seemed to have exactly what he needed.

– Because I know he wanted more, and I figured he’d be excited for the chance to move up a little through my aunt’s gallery. The people that visit there, they’re not known for being cheap. Tony could have made something out of his hobby, even though I think now that even in that beginning phase it was more than just a hobby.

– Well, I went to Tony and gave him the good news. Told him my aunt wanted to have a showing for him. I was so happy, I remember, I wanted to show him this wasn’t just a…I don’t know. A fling. It was such a weird feeling I had around him in the beginning, like I was back in high school again, way too ecstatic for a twenty-four year old. I loved and hated the feeling, but I couldn’t control it. So when I told Tony about my aunt’s offer and he flipped out on me, I couldn’t do anything but cry about it. I felt so stupid. I still do whenever I think about it actually. Like I’d really screwed things up.

– It’s weird, because part of my mind like, screams at me still that I didn’t do anything wrong, that Tony was just being a prick. But then there’s this other part that’s like…he just wanted to live his life. And I kept pushing him to go outside of his comfort zone.

– Yeah. Really crazy stuff. I’d never seen him act like that before. And, I mean, he apologized later, sure, but by then it was obvious there was something wrong with him. Normal people don’t act the way he did all the time: constantly staring off into space, edgy, ready to snap at the slightest sign of distress. He’d be happy sometimes, but it was like he was bipolar or something.

– Like this one night, I remember we went out drinking with a couple of friends from my job. We went to this local spot out by A1A, live band, drink specials, really cute place. Me and Tony danced and it was sweet—he could be really sweet sometimes, don’t get me wrong, even though that just made it worse when he wasn’t—and everything was going perfect this night until some guy came over and brushed up against me.

– Like one of those purposeful brushes, you know? Grabbed my ass a little, standard asshole behavior.

– The place was pretty crowded, so the guy acted like he just bumped into me accidentally, but it was obvious he meant to do it. The way he smiled when I turned around, it creeped me out. And, I mean, that was disrespectful on his part, sure, but it’s South Florida. You’ve got to expect that type of crap around here. Gentlemen don’t really exist anymore. I’d expect Tony to know that, sometimes, things just happen like that. You brush it off and ignore it. I was with him, not this other guy, you know?

– But no. Tony snapped, pounced on the guy and started, just, beating him. Punching him in the face, slamming his head into the ground, making all these growling noises and stuff. I mean really, really angry stuff, way angrier than the situation called for. And, I mean, I couldn’t really understand why he’d act like that.

– The thought was sweet, sure, like he was protecting me. But it didn’t even seem like that after a while. More like he’d been looking for an opportunity to just rail on somebody.

– If I hadn’t known the bartender there, asked him not to call the cops, Tony would have gotten arrested and his cover would have been blown and then what? But no, Tony didn’t think that far ahead. He just snapped.

– Yeah. I mean, I was already in love with him by then. I didn’t really have a choice.

– We couldn’t hang out with my friends after that night either, and hanging out at home with Tony just made me see even more that something was wrong with him.

– It was around that time I threatened to end things if he didn’t talk to me. I think I really scared him then. He didn’t want to be alone. Nobody would in that situation. He told me everything that night and I cried with him and then I convinced him that Les Palmer could be a prosperous painter even while Tony Stephens hid away. He believed me. I believed me.

– I didn’t know what it would lead to, I swear. I just wanted him to be happy.


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89. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 16

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11 July 2011

– Earl had this routine, bruh.

– Nigga’d fall asleep on my couch at like midnight, one a.m., then wake up at the crack a dawn and just sit at the balcony and stare out at the street for like an hour.

– Caught his ass doin’ that shit first mornin’ after I picked his ass up, starin’ at the cars and writin’ in that goddamn notebook. Ain’t even see him sittin’ there ‘til I almost tripped over his ass tryna get some juice from the fridge.

– Scared the shit outta me. Nigga just sittin’ on the ground, starin’ outside, eyes lookin’ straight dead, bruh. Straight up dead.

– He’d eat some shit if I hooked him up when I cooked for myself, don’t know what he ate the rest a the time. Nigga wasn’t home too much.

– Earl’s P.O. was a asshole, bruh. Couldn’t stand that nigga.

– Used to call my crib up all hours a night and shit, ask me ‘bout Earl, get all pissed off when I tell him I ain’t seen him.

– Used to tell him that shit even if Earl was sittin’ right there, just to fuck with him.

– Earl ain’t care, ain’t even act like he noticed. I swear, bruh, muhfuckin’ P.O.’s. Can’t stand ’em.

– Night Earl told me ‘bout all the shit, we was chillin’ at the crib and I was watchin’ TV and he just started talkin’.

– You gotta understand, son, by then, the nigga’d been at my crib for weeks and I still ain’t know why he got locked up, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m sittin’ in my chair watchin’ Jeopardy and shit and this muhfucka just starts talkin’, like he recorded that shit and pressed play. Had to mute the TV quick just so I could hear his ass.

– I’m sittin’ there sippin’ my drank and chillin’, just gettin’ used to havin’ this nigga ‘round that kind of look like Earl but ain’t really Earl, know what I’m sayin’? I look over at him while he talkin’ and he all leaned forward, thinkin’ deep, talkin’ deep, just…talkin’. ‘Bout the whole thang ‘til he was done. Then he ain’t say another word.

– I ain’t stop him neither, ain’t say nothin’, just sat there and listened to that shit.

– He talked like I wasn’t even there anyways, like he was talkin’ to his self. Said he wasn’t goin’ talk ‘bout prison ‘cause it wasn’t worth it. Told me what he needed to talk ‘bout was what happened before he got locked up, ‘cause that shit wasn’t over with. That’s exactly what he said. he needed to talk ’bout it, ’cause it wasn’t over.

– Said he was goin’ talk about that and then he was goin’ do somethin’ ’bout it. Said he needed to get it all out, get his mind right. Keep things in perspective, he said. That’s the way he talked the whole time. Like he was tryna explain shit to his self. Like he was still tryna let that nigga Tony off the hook, in his head.

– Earl ain’t never once told me he hated Tony that whole time. He ain’t have to, though. It was all in how he was talkin’ bruh, how he kept sayin’ shit over and over again, real heated like and shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m tellin’ you, nigga was seein’ red whenever Tony came up. For real. Earl was like a fuckin’ time bomb bruh.

– Aight, like, he got a job couple weeks after he got back, at this Key Food a couple a blocks from here. P.O. got Earl in as a bag boy and Earl was chillin’, got a pretty nice check after the first week and bought a couple shirts, some food for the crib. Appreciate that shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– Seemed like the brother was on the up and up. Couple weeks he did that shit, and I was thinkin’ maybe he was goin’ be alright.

– Then, he come home one day and his work apron all torn and shit, shirt hangin’ out his pants and he got blood stains near the shoulder. Face so dark and pissed off, nigga coulda blended in with night.

– I ask him what happened, all he tells me’s he quit.

– That’s it.

– I ain’t ask him no mo’ after that ‘cause, bruh, I still know my cuz, you know what I’m sayin’? I know that nigga, even if prison did change his ass. And when he came home after quittin’ Key Food and he was all pissed off, I knew it ain’t have shit to do with that job.

– It was Tony, bruh.

– That’s the day that shit busted through, all that heat Earl had built up in him. That’s the day the nigga just said fuck it.

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86. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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1-12-09 (continued):
 
It’s even worse with the guards, because they actually are in “the shit” everyday, they’re just too clouded with fake-superiority to see what’s really what.
 
They swagger around like they’re the ones in control, but they’re blind. They, more than anybody, see the prison groups as “prison gangs,” like a bunch of high school kids running together to boost each other’s self esteem.
 
I don’t blame them either, I’d think the same thing if I were in their position.
 
The groups, they do look pretty rough. Gangster. Prison tats, shanks, the whole nine. But you gotta be educated about this shit.
 
I’m telling you, American History X will school you.
 
I’ve been here now for long enough to see what the fuck’s really going on: these gangs, their member initiations have got nothing to do with being part of the group as a whole.
 
The act of joining a gang serves one purpose: to ease the new member’s own state of mind.
 
People aren’t so unselfish that they’d stab somebody in the back just so that other person’ll be safer. They do it because they hope that, if the situation comes up where things are reversed, that person’ll do the same for them. Because they couldn’t live afterwards (literally) if they hadn’t at least tried.
 
Its security, the same reason kids cry during sleepovers at their friend’s house or on their first day of school.
 
Watch a little boy whose mom just drove off and left him standing in the playground of his new elementary school, around a bunch of other kids and way-too-happy teachers that he’s never seen before. Look at that kid’s face. You know what you’re going to see?
 
Fear, that’s what. That kid’s scared out of his fucking mind.
 
That kid, alone on the playground for the first time, he’s scared to death because he’s having that moment of realization that everybody has at some point in their lives, that most people spend the rest of their life trying to cope with.
 
He’s realizing that same mom who’ll stab somebody in the back for him, she’s not always going to be there.
 
And when she isn’t, it never really mattered that she was ever there to begin with.
 
That kid’s mother, she’s not there right then while he’s standing on that playground with his Transformers lunch box and oversized book bag; she’s not there to protect him when one of the other kids decides it’d be fun to pick up a rock and beam the boy in the back of the head.
 
And figuring that out, that he’s completely fucking alone, that little boy’s so lost he just sits down, pisses his pants, and cries until he can’t see nothing anymore, until he falls asleep with a crying-headache so he can at least dream that somebody’s shelling out beat-downs in his name.
 
Because that’s all he can do. Dream.
 
That’s the scale. You’re born alone and you die alone, and all that time in between’s spent pretending that both ends don’t exist.
 
And how much better can you deal with that depressing shit than by banding together, fighting the inevitable?
 
We’re all self-centered animals. That kid on the playground, he’d stab somebody for his mom just as quick as she’d do it for him, but only as long as he knew the unwritten contract would never be broken.
 
That agreement, its safety in numbers.
 
It’s Boyz n the Hood. It’s Goodfellas. It’s Scarface. Casino. The Godfather, all three of them. Worker’s unions. Corporations. Sports teams. Native tribes in Africa. Al-Qaeda. The U.S. government. Any government. Fuck, the Catholic Church. It’s all the same.
 
What I’m saying, I guess, is that prison gangs seem childish, but they’re just human. Like an adult security blanket.
 
And I’m not saying they’re immature; these men got the right idea if you ask me.
 
Sleeping good at night’s all about sanctuary, all about peace of mind.
 
Plus, with these gangs, you don’t have to worry about being lonely either. Everybody’s got a deep need for companionship, whether they admit it or not, and these men figured out a way to satisfy that need in an oppressive establishment without having to cry or lie down on some shrink’s couch. That’s not an easy achievement.
 
By joining together, they’re making sure they’ve got somebody to turn around and say something—anything—to without being scared that person’s not going to say something back.
 
Which, sometimes, can be worse than death.

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85. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 15

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11 July 2011

– Took the long way back after I got him.

– Wanted to let the nigga see his city, know what I’m sayin’?

– NY’s a bomb ass city, bruh. I figured it’d been, what, like four years since he seen it? Between college and the pen, nigga hadn’t been in the hood in a hot minute.

– So I’m tryna get him to liven up a little, know what I’m sayin’? Get some energy back in him. Pointing out the billboards and shit. But Earl ain’t say shit the whole way back. And the way he was lookin’ out the window [Wayne shakes his head] Wasn’t like a nigga who been locked up for two years and was happy to be out.

– Way Earl was lookin’ out that window, was like he wasn’t seein’ shit. Was like the nigga was still locked up. But in his head, know what I’m sayin’? Like he wished he was still back in his cell. Like the only reason he left was ‘cause they kicked his ass out.

– I told you, Earl’s ma passed while he was in prison. She always had heart problems. I ain’t tell Earl right then.

– I ain’t say nothin’ but I think her dyin’ had somethin’ to do with him too.

– His ma, she ain’t take that shit good when I told her ‘bout Earl bein’ in prison.

– I had to, bruh. I couldn’t lie to Aunt Sharon, man. That’s fam. I ain’t wanna tell her but I did. Told her Earl got locked up on some bullshit, some unjustifiable shit, but she still ain’t take that shit too well. Tried to get in contact with him, but I told her I ain’t know where he was locked up.

– She was ‘bout to fly down there, man. But then she got sick, and shit ain’t really turn out after that.

– I ain’t tell Earl all this though, ain’t even say nothin’ ‘bout her ‘til he asked. I thought they’d a told him she passed, while he was locked up, but naw.

– I remember that’s one a the only things he asked me while we was driving, when we damn near back at the crib. How’s his ma doing.

– I’da told him earlier if he’d called me while he was locked up, but like I said, I ain’t hear from the nigga the whole time he was in the pen.

– I ain’t want to tell him ‘bout his ma right then neither, but I had to. I ain’t goin’ hide it from the nigga, know what I’m sayin’? That’s fucked up to do some shit like that.

– He ain’t say nothin’ ‘bout it. To this day I don’t know if the nigga was mad or sad or what. I tried talkin’ to him ‘bout it but every time I asked him somethin’ he’d say like one word then shut up again.

– One a the times I asked was the night he told me ‘bout everything with Tony, couple weeks after he got back.

– When he told me ‘bout how he got locked up, man [Mr. Price shakes his head and claps his hands together], I hated that nigga Tony Stephens so fuckin’ much.

– That sonbitch fucked my cousin up, son. Earl wasn’t even my cuz no mo’ when I saw him. Nigga used to talk yo’ ass off, wouldn’t never shut the fuck up. know what I’m sayin’?

– But now? Now he was on some other shit, bruh. Whole time he stayed at my place, it was like living with some homeless nigga I just met and brought back to my crib.

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84. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 12

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26 June 2011; 11:35:

– Tony was already living here for a month by time we met.

– By then he’d found a couple of side jobs around the area; yard work, some construction gigs. He’d stumbled on the Home Depot over by Glades Road, with the Mexican guys that hang out by the corner at like six AM every day. They all don’t have any papers either, so they’re out there every morning, waiting for people to pull up in their pickups so they can hop in and go make a couple bucks doing whatever.

– Tony had a bit of an advantage with the jobs because he spoke English, but it was overall pretty good work for everybody.

– Everybody who lives around here knows about that spot. Need some roofing done and don’t want to hire somebody? Stop by Home Depot. Plumbing issues? Home Depot. Gardening, laying concrete, bootlegging cable, whatever. You get over to Home Depot and it’s done by the end of the day for half the price. All without ever actually going into the store.

– It’s an honest day’s work. And it’s not like slave labor or anything. From what Tony told me, they handle their own. They’ll do what you ask, but you get too feisty with them and you’re liable to be paying a little bit more than you bargained for.

– Tony got to know some of them. Can’t tell you where to find the ones he knew though. I mean, like I said, half the people over there don’t speak English and the other half would pretend they didn’t just to avoid an interrogation, you know? What with INS and all that.

– Yeah, well, that’s what Tony did when he got here. And I mean, it’s okay money but it’s also hard work. He never really talked about it except to say that’s what he did sometimes. Every once in a while I’d ask him what’s the last thing he worked on and he’d say something like: a house. Two words, like that. Didn’t like to talk about it.

– He didn’t seem worried about money though so I’m guessing it was good income. Had to be hard though. Enough days of that and anybody’d need a drink. Which is where I came in. [Cathy leans back in her seat and sighs] I think back on it even now and it still seems so natural how he and I got together.

– I don’t even really remember not being with him, you ever felt like that? Like the feelings, they just sort of sprang up after a conversation or two and embedded themselves in me.

– He looked so lost that first time I saw him. But strong too. I don’t know.

– He kind of reminded me of myself. When I moved to Boca from West Palm, I did it for the same reasons he did […][1]

– I think I recognized the similarities between us, right from our first conversation. And Tony, well—Tony seemed like an opportunity, that’s the best way I can explain it.

– After talking to him for like an hour, it was like this voice in my head was telling me, if you ever want to say you’ve really experienced something, keep talking to this guy. Get to know him. Help him.

– That’s the impression Tony gave me. That he was a whole lifetime of experiences in one condensed, dysfunctional package.

– I don’t know, not long. Pretty quickly, actually. Our relationship just sort of felt like instinct. We started hanging out a lot more and he let me into his life a little bit at a time. I saw the motel where he lived and some things stood out as blatantly odd and I got curious and started asking questions and then [Ms. D’Amico shrugs] you know.

– And then things got complicated.


[1] Cathy explains her stint in community college and how she dropped out after her freshman year due to a lack of motivation. She also explains the strained relationship between her and her mother resulting in her move to Boca Raton to be closer to her aunt, a move that Ms. D’Amico’s mother firmly disagreed with. Apparently the Veicht/D’Amico sisters had a falling out after Ms. Veicht’s divorce.

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82. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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1-12-09 (continued):
 
And the factions, that’s a whole other topic right there.
 
Six months now I’ve watched them, the groups unofficially banded together for their own protection.
 
And I know how everybody on the outside sees them. I saw it like that when I came in here too, looking at them and automatically thinking prison gangs, like it’s a bad thing. I saw it and was like “Yup. American History X.
 
Like I said, I’ve seen all this crap already. Can’t phase me. And it is like that, just like it. Even more like it than I realized though. Because after a few months in here we all have that same realization, like when Edward Norton realizes the politics of inter-gang relations, the bullshit that goes on between cell block crews.
 
Only, when you realize it yourself, on the inside, it’s not the same like realizing it along with Ed Norton. Out there, watching a movie, it’s a profound discovery. It makes you see things about yourself, about humanity, about life and art. Makes you want to be a fucking peace activist, seeing that goddamn movie.
 
In here, though, you’re alone. It’s eye-opening, yeah. But it’s not good to be that goddamn insightful in here.
 
The guards, the warden, the people who come to visit every other day to see their fathers and grandfathers and husbands and boyfriends and brothers, they don’t really know. It’s like they’re just watching us on TV, even when they’re here. They think they know when they’re here because they believe that, just for a second, they’re in “the shit” like the rest of us. Because they’ve got this bird’s eye view that makes them think they know what the fuck’s going on.
 
But they don’t.
 
They just want to believe they do so they don’t feel left out of the mix.
 
Because, in the end, that’s all anybody wants, is to fit in.
 
It’s the same shit like when you cry because somebody else’s parents died, or because the guy didn’t get the girl at the end of the movie, even when you’re watching the fucking movie with your boyfriend or girlfriend and your parents are sitting right at home, watching TV and eating Grape Nuts and being generally old.
 
You just want to be able to lie in bed after it’s all over and feel like life—your life in particular—has got some deeper meaning.
 
But it doesn’t. Nobody’s does. We’re all just floating through this world, waiting for shit to happen. Sooner you recognize that, the better off you’ll be when things turn to shit.
 

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80. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 14

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11 July 2011

– Earl was messed up, son. Prison’ll fuck a nigga’s head up like that.

– I ain’t think it was goin’ change Earl too much though, you know what I’m sayin’? I mean, I knew the shit’d get to him, but I ain’t think it’d get him that much.

– When Earl called me to pick him up after he got out the pen, he ain’t sound no different from when me and him used to chill back in the day, when we was young’ns. So I’m thinkin’ I’m goin’ pick up my cousin and we goin’ chill, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m thinkin’ I’ma pull up and Earl goin’ be standin’ there lookin’ all goofy and skinny and shit.

– We fam, son. I know that nigga, better than he probably know his own goddamn self.

– Last time I seen Earl, before he got locked up, he was clean. Nice fade, fresh kicks, decent lookin’. Type a nigga a bitch’d bring home so her pops’d stop cussin’ her out ‘bout the other niggas she be bringin’ ‘round the crib, know what I’m sayin’?

– But I pull up in front a the bus station this day, and Earl standin’ there lookin’ a hot mess. I’m talkin’, long, nappy ass hair all puffed out and comin’ down round his chin and covering his neck like he think he a lion or somethin’. Got me rememberin’ this brother I used to run with back in the day, Red.

– Red was a true hustlin’ ass nigga, son. Muhfucka’d cap yo ass for a dollar if you tried him, know what I’m sayin’?

– I mean, I hustle to make ends meet, son, but this nigga Red, he loved that shit. I’m talkin’, this nigga’d live the life for free son. Straight du-rags, Tim’s and Jets blazers, long, fresh braids.

– Me and Red used to slang shit out in the hood back in the day, cop a few dollars and shoot the rest at our connect. This one day, though, Red runs up on a crackhead looking nigga and starts in with his slick talk, tryna push a dime on the nigga. We’d copped an ounce, right? And we was tryin’ to turn that shit ‘fore anybody ran up on us and shit, know what I’m sayin’? Ain’t good to hold on to that shit too long.

– Turns out though, muhfucka Red was tryna push a dime on, wasn’t no real crackhead.

– Fuckin’ P.O.

– Undercover, nigga. Know what I’m sayin’?

– Fast nigga too, had Red on the concrete in cuffs before me or Red even figured out shit was goin’ down.

– Me? I dipped, son. I ain’t goin’ lie.

– Me and Red spoke ‘bout that shit before. Wasn’t like I was bitchin’ out or nothin’. Ain’t no sense in both a us getting took. So I booked it back to my ma’s crib, ain’t stop ‘til I got there.

– Got away too, but Red got sent upstate.

– Second offense, you know? Four and a half years mandatory.

– I’m gettin’ there, bruh. Point is, I ain’t hear from Red for a minute ‘til I saw him ‘bout a year before Earl came back from the pen, down by county. I’m coming up from the subway to go pay this ticket I got for a busted taillight—told you ‘bout that—and this muhfucka Red’s comin’ down past me, wearin’ a business suit and shit. Braids cut off, got a nice fade, can’t see none of his tatts and shit.

– I stop him and pound the brother and Red look at me like he don’t know me from Joe fuckin’ Blow. Like the nigga’s head got erased while he was locked up.

– And even when he started gettin’ into the shit and sayin’ ‘sup to me, I could still see it in his eyes. Nigga wasn’t there, son.

– Shit got real fucked up when I called him Red and his face just dropped and he all like, “Francisco.”

– So I’m like, who the fuck is Francisco? And Red tells me his name ain’t Red no more. It’s Francisco. Red’s in the past, man.

– That’s what he said: Red’s in the past.

– That’s how I felt when I picked Earl up that day. Like it wasn’t Earl no more.

– I mean, nigga looked kinda like Earl. Remembered the same shit Earl remembered. Sounded like the nigga a little. But that wasn’t my little cuz, bruh. That muhfucka was on some other shit.

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78. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 11

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26 June 2011

– The first thing he did was check into the motel and look for a job. Which, as you can imagine, was almost impossible.

– It’s hard enough getting a job in this economy when you actually exist in the system. But Tony had no social security number he could use, no ID, nothing. He couldn’t even use his real name.

– That’s when he came up with Les Palmer, actually, as a cover. But—it was weird. He always told me to call him Tony, refused to let me call him Les, even in public, which I thought was super-odd at first. And risky.

– He spent the first month or two telling me Tony was just a nickname, which didn’t make any sense. Then, after we’d been together a while, he told me his story and I kind of understood. I still thought it was taking a huge risk, asking me to call him Tony in public. But he’d tell me he loved Boca and how laid back things were around here, that he didn’t need to worry too much and he just wanted me to call him by his real name. He told me that Earl had taken the fall after the plan went awry which, I mean, despite how screwed up it was, brought the heat off Tony enough so he could try and live as close to a normal life as possible.

– Yeah. But I don’t think it actually had anything to do with him thinking things were blowing over. I think the real reason he wanted me to call him by his real name was to hold on to some sense of normalcy.

– Tony never really took to being called Les. Even after things started getting better for him, whenever somebody would call him Les, it would take him a while to recognize it. And he’d always look upset when he did.

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76. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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1-12-09:
 
From what me and Tony talked about—and from what I read about him in his journal particularly—he came to Tallahassee to get away from all the baggage he had back home in Miami. And I completely understand the desire. It’s pretty much the same reason I came to FSU, to get away from it all, to start over in a new place.
 
I could have gone to school in NY: Binghamton or Syracuse or NYU, even Columbia if I wanted. I had the grades, they probably would’ve paid for it.
 
Sometimes I think maybe I should’ve. Probably wouldn’t be in this position right now if I had. None of this would have ever happened. Florida would be far away, nothing but a figment of my imagination.
 
But then, see, I say that now and it just doesn’t sound right. Sometimes I wish I did feel like that, but then I think about all I’ve learned from my experiences in the past couple of months. Way more than I ever would have experienced if I stayed home.
 
I’ve grown these last few years, a lot. I always said to myself that I wanted a fresh start, and it’s funny to think about now.
 
I don’t know what’s any fresher than this.
 
I just wish I could have some contact with somebody, that’s the only real problem. That’s where the anger’s coming from, why it’s getting just a little more intense in here for me each day: loneliness.
 
Everybody I had is gone now, and I just wish I had even one person. Family, old professors, anybody.
 
The other guys in here, they’ve got their mail days, their visitation hours, people giving them that little glimpse of the outside every once in a while, a reason to move forward, to aspire to get out.
 
It’s the waiting that’s getting to me. The waiting to leave here, the waiting to go back to outside living, the waiting to see if I’ll be alright out there after being in here.
 
And in here, God. Watching everybody operate, it’s like death’s slowly eating us all alive.
 
Like just living in here, having a life behind these bars, is against the rules.

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74. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 13

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11 July 2011

– Man, Earl ain’t tell me shit while he was in the pen. Only thing I knew while he was locked up was—the nigga was locked up. That’s it.

– Remind me a this time—hold up man. You been askin’ all types a questions and shit, like you tryna get this nigga Earl. You sure you ain’t no fuckin’ poh-leece?

– Whatever. Yeah, Earl ain’t tell me shit. I ain’t even find out he was locked up ‘til the day he called. Nigga’d already been in ‘bout a month by then.

– I was runnin’ some shit to this nigga Raul’s crib over in Queens that day. I remember ‘cause the poh-leece pulled me over like three times comin’ back through the hood ‘cause my taillight was busted. Almost got me with a ounce the first time too, son, ‘fore I had dropped the shit off.

– Shit was like a warnin’ bruh, you know what I’m sayin’? [Wayne seems amused] How that look? I get pulled over three muhfuckin’ times on the way back to my crib, then I get in and my phone rangin’, pick it up and they tellin’ me I got a collect call from Wakulla County Correctional Institution?

– Yeah, man. And I’m like, the fuck is a “Wakulla County,” you know what I’m sayin’? Never heard that shit before in my life, son—but I done heard “Correctional Institution” before, know what I’m sayin’? That shit came in loud and clear, and the bitch on the phone asked me if I accept the charges and I’m like yeah, even though I ain’t know who the fuck it was callin’.

– But I ain’t goin’ deny a brother in the pen a outside voice, know what I’m sayin’? I know plenty a niggas locked up right now, and I’d take calls from any one of ’em, let ‘em know shit’s aight on this side a the bars, know what I’m sayin’? I feel for them niggas in there sometimes, son.

– Yeah, I accept the call and there’s all this static and yelling and shit and I’m like, who the fuck is this? And here come Earl’s voice, all deep and shit, like bein’ locked up a couple weeks done turned the nigga into a grown ass man, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m surprised as fuck when I hear him. Thought somebody was fuckin’ with me.

– My little cuz, my little movie-crazy, big-headed, smart-ass cousin done got himself locked up? You must be out yo goddamn mind. [Wayne shakes his head] Shit wasn’t no joke, bruh. Earl was locked up. He ain’t tell me on the phone that day what had happened neither.

– When you talkin’ to a nigga locked up, you got five minutes. Operators don’t be asking no questions, givin’ niggas no breaks. Five minutes, then yo line’s cut. All Earl told me that day was to tell his ma he got a job overseas, some emergency shit. That he ain’t have time to call or tell her nothin’.

– I told him his ma—my Aunt Sharon—she ain’t stupid. She ain’t goin’ believe that shit. He said she got to, told me to make some shit up if I had to, then he told me he’d holla at me when he got out and that was it.

– I ain’t hear from the nigga again ‘til he called me to pick him up at the bus station two years later. By then, his ma’d already passed and my ma wasn’t talkin’ to me no mo’, so I was the only fam he had.

– Two years son. That’s a long time not to hear from a nigga who been locked up. Time like that, prison time, that shit do a lot to a nigga.

– What I heard, two years in the pen, that’s like ten years out here. Ten years a getting’ shitted on by every nigga with a badge or a rap sheet.

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72. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 10

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26 June 2011

– Well, I don’t know how long it took Tony to drive down here. I never asked.

– All he ever talked about was Tallahassee, Miami, and being here in Boca.

– I don’t know. Seeing as how Earl gave him his truck and Tony didn’t have a mode of transportation when I met him, I’m guessing he got rid of it somewhere along the way.

– What he did after that, before he got here, is beyond me. But I’m sure it was hard. It was all hard.

– That’s why I keep saying, you can’t judge the man until you’ve been through what he’s been through.

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69. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 12

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11 July 2011

– Earl’s lawyer?

– Jewish muhfucka—Silverstein.

– Them Jews, bruh, get one a ‘em in a courtroom and they can get a nigga outta any type a shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– Good muhfucka, Silverstein. Helped my fam out, and I ‘preciate that shit.

– You ever see that muhfucka, tell him Classic Price got his back. He need anything from my neck a the woods, let a nigga know. I take care a people that take care a me and mine’s, you know what I’m sayin’?

– If Earl ain’t turn bitch on them faggot ass cops and start runnin’ his goddamn mouth, Silverstein probably’d a got his ass off with no time in the pen.

– Still, bruh, two years ain’t shit compared to what them niggas was tryin’ to pin him with.

– Earl got lucky, bruh. Lucky he had Silverstein helpin’ his ass out, you know what I’m sayin’?

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64. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 11

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11 July 2011

– Man, hell naw. Earl wouldn’t lie ‘bout no shit like that.

– You ain’t see the nigga, son. I know my cuz, man. He ain’t into that shit, and he can’t fake no shit like the way he was actin’ when I seen him.

– Tony fucked him over, son. Them cops jacked Earl up, and if that lawyer hadn’t helped my cuz out, the nigga’d probably still be locked up, son.

– They was gunnin’ for him, bruh. I mean, it was like they had it out for Earl on some personal shit, like the nigga owed ‘em money or somethin’.

– Fuck type a justice system that is, bruh? Type a system goin’ let a nigga helpin’ out another nigga get messed up by poh-leece? Slammed into refrigerators and walls and shit by people who ‘posed to be helpin’ his ass. Then lock him up for some shit wasn’t even him? That ain’t justice, son. Ain’t no type of justice, just bullshit, that’s what it is. For real.

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62. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 10

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11 July 2011

– Earl got got, son.

– Pinched. Snatched up.

Arrested, nigga. Damn.

– Yeah, bruh. By that bitch ass detective. Shoulda sued the shit out his ass.

– Goddamn poh-leece, bruh. Been sayin’ that shit since way back, and people keep talkin’ like it don’t be happenin’ no more. Like Rodney King’s old news, bruh, like muhfuckas don’t still got a itchy trigga finga for niggas comin’ out the hood.

– But Earl told me, son. Them cops fucked him up when they arrested him. Tossed his ass, like a toy, bruh.

– Slammed him up into the front door, pullin’ they guns and puttin’ ‘em to the nigga’s head, tellin’ him he better be glad they ain’t some yippy-yi-yay mufuckas in this bitch, ‘cause if it was up to them they’d cap his ass right there and sit his dead ass out front so everybody’d know not to fuck with ’em.

Yeah they said that shit. That’s straight up what Earl told me.

– I’m sayin’, them cops was on some other shit, son. Got my cuz lookin’ guilty ‘fore he even had a trial. Let me see them niggas in the streets too, bruh. Don’t give a damn if they poh-leece or not, I’m fuckin’ ‘em up on sight. Just like I’d do Tony Stephens bitch ass. For real.

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58. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 9

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26 June 2011

– Things went as best as they could have, I guess.

– Tony found himself in a weird situation afterwards. He had transportation and a little bit of money, but nowhere to go. Just driving around aimlessly, staring at signs on the highway and wondering which exit he should take to start his new life.

– He thought about all the places he’d visited as a child, searching his memory for a place that felt safe. But everything kept coming back to his hometown, Miami. The place he’d been trying to escape ever since he moved to Tallahassee. And he couldn’t go back there anyways, for obvious reasons.

– It would’ve been idiotic to go back to the place he came from when he was supposed to be dead. So he chose Boca, here, similar to Miami in location and overall atmosphere. A quiet city where he could hide and still get a semblance of the feeling of home that he had when he lived with his mom. [Cathy nods with conviction] He settled in Boca because it reminded him of the last safe place he’d ever lived.

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54. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 9

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11 July 2011

– I mean, kinda both, know what I’m sayin’?

– Bruh, it’s like this. Earl had this heat in him when he talked to me ‘bout Tony. You could tell the brotha hated that nigga on some deep shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– I’m sayin’, Earl was heated bout Tony, you get me? Could see it in his face when he told me all this shit. Like he was tryna hide it from me but it wasn’t workin’, like he thought he’d just up and snap on a nigga if he let that shit out too much.

– But when he talked ‘bout that fire, bruh—shit wasn’t like that. He’d talk ‘bout the fire and that hostility’d disappear.

– Nigga’d be mad as hell for like an hour talkin’ ‘bout Tony, lookin’ like he ‘bout to cap the nigga right outside the hall. Then he’d get on ‘bout settin’ that fire, and his eyes would be lit, like he was high or something.

– Nigga could tell you everything too, son. I’m talkin’, the smell a the gas hittin’ his nose, fillin’ up his chest while he fillin’ up the house, pourin’ that shit all over them tagged-up[1] walls and that wrinkly old body, soakin’ some old, piss-smellin’ couch in the middle a the living room.

– Said they used ‘bout six tanks a gas, had ta hit up six different gas stations so nobody’d ask no questions. Keep the muhfuckin’ poh-leece guessin’, know what I’m sayin’? But it weren’t even that, bruh. Way this nigga told me ‘bout doin’ all that shit, weren’t nothin’ compared to how he talked ‘bout them matches, bruh.

– Way Earl talked ‘bout them matches, you’d think it was a stack a blunts or somethin’. Told me how he lit ‘em and held ‘em until his fingers was damn near cookin’, then he dropped the whole book and walked out the spot. By then, guess where Tony muhfuckin Stephens at?

– Damn right, outside. Bitch ass nigga. Sound ‘bout right, don’t it? Muhfucka booked it out the crib soon as he smelt the gas.

– Like I said, nigga made Earl do most a that shit by his self, son. That muhfucka Tony just watched. The house went up soon as they came out too, and by time Earl got to the car, the roof a the house was already fallin’ and the poh-leece was on they way. Earl and Tony heard ‘em wailin’ and hopped in Tony’s truck and bounced, Earl drivin’ ‘cause Tony started bitchin’ out. Tried to change his mind in the middle a the shit, know what I’m sayin’? Earl said he was all cryin’ in the back. And Earl just starin’ at the house in the rearview mirror, watchin’ that shit burn.

– I don’t know ‘bout ‘enjoy’, son. I ain’t goin’ say the nigga ‘enjoyed’ that shit.

– Tony fucked Earl up, bruh. Earl wasn’t cool with that shit. All I’m sayin’ is, the house, man. There was somethin’ ‘bout burnin’ that house down that got in Earl’s head, bruh. Changed him. Brought out a side a my cuz I ain’t never seen before.


44. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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11-12-08:
 
I read Tony’s journal before they locked me up. A whole book of thought from one of the realest dudes I’ve ever had the chance to interact with.
 
I read it because I was trying to put his mind together, so I could learn a little more about him.
 
I figured for somebody to have found themselves in the positions Tony did throughout the time I knew him, he had to have been through some pretty interesting, deep shit before that; shit he would have never told anybody about.
 
And I also figured since I was in so deep with him over all this, I had the right to know.
 
I’m glad I did too. It put a lot of things in perspective. Made me figure out exactly what’s going on in this little soap opera I’ve found myself a part of.
 
Tony couldn’t help feeling oppressed. Neither could I. Hence, the connection.
 
I don’t blame him, not too much. He was the catalyst, yeah, but he didn’t put me in here—you did.
 
This system. This  country that put us all into this position in the first place. The position where we’ve got to fuck people over just to get by.
 
This country, where individuals are just part of the “population.” A product. It’s been like this for years now too, ever since Vietnam, when the U.S. turned its back on its own veterans.
 
We consider ourselves the country with the most values. I’ve been reading up on some shit though, in the library they’ve got here, reading between the lines and seeing things they didn’t tell us in high school American history, things that they give you a watered-down version of in class so you think it’s not as fucked up as it actually is.
 
You know the only country to ever use a WMD aggressively?
 
US. World War Two. 300,000, decimated. And yeah, you already knew that. But you ever actually thought about it, how screwed up that actually is?
 
Another one: who killed the most Vietnamese in a failed attempt to “free” their country from communism?
 
US. Over 3 million. 
 
What about the Korean War?
 
4.5 million. US.
 
Iraq and Afghanistan?
 
Over a million in the past twenty years.
 
Cuba, South Africa, Colombia, all over South America.
 
You hate on Hitler like he’s the worst thing to happen to the free world since slavery. And yeah, the dude was fucked up, but he killed like six million people over the course of six years. That’s a million a year.
 
We’re on par for that right now, so how different are we really?
 
You ever seen Dead Presidents? What about Set It Off?
 
The things I’ve done are nothing compared to what they did, and they were completely justified.
 
The world hates America, and people here are too stupid to even notice, which makes the world hate us even more.
 
You think 9/11 was an accident? You think it won’t happen again?
 
It happened for a reason, people. And it’ll keep happening as long as things are the way they are.
 
Only next time, instead of a couple of Boeing airliners it’ll probably be a nuke.
 
And if I’m still around afterwards, when the whole planet’s turned into a fucking atomic desert, I’m going to scream “I told you so,” even if there’s nobody there to hear me.
 
Justice, man. Real justice, true justice. It’s going to happen, and I can’t wait.
 

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41. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 8

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11 July 2011

– Yuh. The plan was cake, son. Crazy shit, but easy. Strung out as this nigga Tony was, shit like that had to come from his ass.

– Only had to do a couple of things to make shit happen, you know what I’m sayin’? Weren’t nothin’ to it if you look at the shit without thinkin’ logically, son. Tony thinkin’ he got all his tracks covered. The moment Earl said aight, I’ll help you bruh, this nigga Tony’s ready, throwin’ down blueprints and shit on Earl’s coffee table, layin’ the plan out step by step. And it was easy in a doin’ sense a shit too, you know what I’m sayin’? But mentally that shit was crazy, bruh. No way it’d work.

– Aight, like this. Earl tellin’ me he had just started usin’ real live dead bodies up in his classes at med school, cuttin’ ‘em up and shit so they can see what’s inside. First step: Tony had Earl using his connections to get one a them bodies outta the school in his truck, know what I’m sayin’? Bust in there, grab the dead nigga, fuck the place up a little, make it look like some punk ass kids was fuckin’ around and  shit, then hop in Earl’s truck and bounce. That’s the first part.

– Second part, they take the body to a fucked-up building out in the boonies somewhere, dress the muhfucka up in Tony’s gear, put the nigga’s wallet and shit in the pants—so the cops can identify and shit, know what I’m sayin’? Fuck up the dead nigga’s jaw a little—for the dental records, right? Told you, this nigga thought about everything, son. When they done with all that, cover the body and the whole spot with a tank a gas and light a match. Boom.

– Told you the shit was crazy, bruh. Way Earl told me, body was easy to snatch. I thought they’d a had all types a security and shit, but he said all they had was a freezer in the science buildin’ holdin’ the bodies overnight. Just used his ID at the door, busted in and rolled the body out. Security ain’t see shit, weren’t even ‘round when they was there.

– The house? Sheeeeeit. [Mr. Price chuckles] Earl told me half a Tallahassee already look like it ‘bout to burn down. Him and Tony just drove ‘round ‘til they found a crib that looked like you could blow on the muhfucka and it’d fall, and that was they spot.

– You ain’t gotta tell me, bruh. Earl told me this shit and I’m lookin’ at him like he lost his muhfuckin’ mind. I gotta stop him at one point and be like, bruh, are you fuckin’ serious ‘bout all this? And you helped the nigga? I mean, they boys and all but you must be out yo goddamn mind you think I’ma help these triflin’ niggas ‘round my hood with some shit like that.

– Earl ain’t see it like that though. I asked the nigga why he did it and the brother just shrugged. Said ain’t nobody ever really had no trust in him like Tony did. Said it felt good, and once they got shit started, once shit really got rollin’, he started for real thinkin’ the whole damn thing was goin’ work. That’s where he fucked up even more, son. I mean, the nigga shouldn’t a agreed to the shit in the first place, know what I’m sayin’? But when you start believin’ some crazy shit like what these two dumbasses had goin’ on, start believin’ some stupid ass plan like that goin’ work, that’s when you got some problems you ain’t goin’ be able to get away from, son.

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39. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 8

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24 June 2011

– I told you, Tony didn’t have to convince Earl of anything. In fact, Earl pretty much convinced Tony this was the solution to all his problems. He had Tony believing nothing bad could come of it all. That Tony was still young, still technically in the beginning of the rest of his life, so he could start over with no problem.

– Tony stood there in Earl’s apartment with tears in his eyes and listened to Earl tell him everything was going to be alright. He let Earl hug him, pat him on the back, grab him a beer and sit down and talk to him about it all. And it worked. Tony felt better when he left Earl’s apartment that night. He didn’t feel so lonely anymore, and he had a plan. A crazy one, I admit but still, it was something.

– The plan was pretty simple once you saw it laid out. Tony summed up the whole thing for me at my apartment one night, sitting in the living room. It was about—two months after we’d started seeing each other and we’d just gotten in this argument because I didn’t understand why he would slip into these moments where he would just be so distant and—somber.

– I mean, I thought it was me at first, and it was really starting to bring me down. Make me lose interest, you know? The closeness I felt when I first met him, the depth of our conversations and the passion of infatuation and all that—crap. [Ms. D’Amico sighs loudly, swipes at her eyes and stares out the window for a moment before continuing] I felt like it was starting to run out. He was just so down all the time, and he wouldn’t tell me why.

– I still don’t know why I dealt with all that baggage from somebody I just met. He just got in my head like that. And, I guess, since I knew there was something that was making him act like that, something particular, something that disappeared every once in a while long enough for us to have a few good evenings, I needed to find out what that thing was if I was going to stay with him.

– I’m not surprised I pursued it so much though. I think—the less I understand a guy, it seems, the more likely I am to fall in love with him. I don’t know why. It’s not by choice, it’s just how I’ve always been. My sister says I have a mothering complex. My sister can be a bitch sometimes though.

– Anyways, I kept badgering him and asking him what his problem was and then I kind of—threatened to leave him.

– Then he just told me. I guess he got scared. Of being alone.

– I’m guessing he told me about their plan the same way Earl first told him, before they filled in all the details. I don’t know if they took notes or anything, but Tony told me that he and Earl collaborated a lot, trying to figure out every possible scenario. They spent hours in Earl’s living room, going over and over it all. It sounded like it had to have been more complicated than that, like what Tony told me was just the basics.

– Basically, Tony had to remove himself from Tallahassee life: no bars, no mingling out in the rec or pool area at his apartment, as little contact with others as possible. He just sat in his apartmnt for a couple of weeks, only going out late at night every once in a while to meet up with Earl and discuss the rest of their plan, which had three parts: the body, the house, and the escape.

– Tony would get the body from his old anatomy class.

– It was a bit of a stretch, I thought, but I guess he trusted Earl, and Earl figured Tony could break in one night easy, throw the body in the back of Earl’s truck, and be out of there before anybody even realized what was going on. It was summer term at the time, so Tallahassee was pretty much a ghost town. Most people’ll choose the beach over another semester of classes.

– Yeah, that’s what they call it. A medical cadaver. One that was around the same age as Tony. Then Earl found an old abandoned house a couple of miles from the university and the rest of the plan was actually simple, on paper at least. Put the body in the house, put Tony’s clothes and ID on it, douse It all with as much gas as they could get their hands on, then light the whole place up.

– Well, I mean, obviously, there was more to it than that. They probably had a few things to fix, little kinks. A lot of technical stuff he never really got into. I’m assuming Earl never really got into it with Tony either. Like I said, it was his plan. So, technically, it’s his fault the whole thing went to shit.

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38. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 7

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11 July 2011

– Yeah, that’s what I was sayin’. Earl was like, hell naw nigga, when Tony came at him with that shit.

– So Tony backs up, stutterin’ and shit, says to Earl that he’s just playin’, he ain’t really tryin’ to kill hisself. Then he says he just wants to fake it.

– Ever heard a that shit? Sounded like somethin’ outta them movies Earl be watchin’ all the time, bruh. Shit like that don’t work in real life. Tony wanna fake his death and he tellin’ Earl that Earl gotta help him ‘cause Earl the only nigga Tony got on his side, or some shit like that.

– Yeah, told Earl that shit—that faking his death bullshit—was the answer to all his problems, you know what I’m sayin’? You gotta watch out for niggas like that, son. Niggas that say one bitch move’s goin’ fix all they problems. Can’t stand that shit, niggas livin’ in a dream world. Everybody got problems, son. That’s a part a life. Difference between livin’ and survivin’s how you deal with yo own shit, know what I’m sayin’? Niggas like Tony, they pussies, bruh. They ain’t got no balls. Moment things get hard they come ‘round bitchin’ and cryin’, askin’ for handouts and shit.

– Yeah. Earl heard all that shit Tony had to say and fell in line. My fault right there too. Just like him sayin’ fuck you to Tony at first was all me, him givin’ in to the nigga was on me too, son. That’s my bad right there, ‘cause that’s the other thing I taught Earl, you know what I’m sayin’?

– Loyalty, bruh. Told him from he was a young’n, you can’t trust yuh niggas then yuh niggas can’t trust you, and then you ain’t got shit, you know?

– What they call that—conflictin’ resources?

– Yuh, Earl had his head all mixed up with different types a lessons and shit, son, and Tony took advantage a it. Saw a crack in Earl and dived right into the nigga. Kept at his ass, sayin’ all types a bullshit like: you my nigga, man, help a brother out man, let me get my shit together. Starts remindin’ Earl how they met, boys from day one. Pattin’ Earl on the back and sayin’ shit like, remember that time in chemistry when professor who-gives-a-shit got mad ‘cause we was high as shit and kept giggling in the back a the class?

– I mean, really tryna push Earl’s homeboy buttons, bruh, know what I’m sayin’? Ain’t that some shit? Nigga put the guilt trip on Earl so he’d help him disappear, so Earl’d take the fall for him. Kept spittin’ more and more bullshit ‘til Earl was like, aight, bruh, what’s the plan you got?

– And that was the defeat right there, son. Earl gave in right there. You can’t back out no mo’ when you in that deep, you know what I’m sayin’? Shady ass nigga, Tony Stephens.

– Said it once and I’ma say it again: any how I see his bitch ass in the street, there’s goin’ be some heads rollin’ in this muhfucka. For real.

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35. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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10-29-08:
 
The people who denied my appeal, they probably think I’m a fucking brat for even complaining.
 
“Grow some balls Earl, why don’tcha.” That’s what they’d say to me if they saw me.
 
Obviously these bastards don’t know what prison’s like. They obviously don’t realize that the only difference between me in here and them out there is the fact that “in here” even exists.
 
They don’t realize that if there wasn’t a “prison” to compare the “free world” to, the “free world” wouldn’t seem so goddamn free.
 
They’d tell me I deserve this, the monotony and constant noise; tell me that I need to stop bitching and pay my dues. But they don’t see that their own lives of constantly trying to move up in the ranks, getting that degree and getting that job then wasting away their better years so they can, maybe, get that retirement check then die is the same shit we’ve got to deal with in here, shuffling around in lines whenever we’re going to the yard or the cafeteria, trying to hold our heads high even though our minds are completely fucking smashed, just to keep the slight hope that somebody mightgive us some goddamn respect; the moves we make in the prison system’s ladder, from fresh-meat to seasoned-convict; the way we’ve got to work around the prison guards the same way you’ve got to work your way around your corporate bosses, only difference being our bosses would love to eyeball fuck each of us with the barrel of their guns. Which is a little more motivation than you’ve got out there, tell you the truth.
 
And you can’t say shit to me like I don’t know about that side, the side you’re on. I’m a chameleon, man. I’ve been there.
 
I got the degree.
 
I got the credentials.
 
I’ve seen the worthlessness of your “value” system.
 
You officials would come in here, hear me out, then say to me, “this is prison, Earl, what did you expect?”
 
But you don’t see that you’re in a prison your damn selves.
 
I was reborn the first morning I woke up in this cell; reborn into a world just as fucked up as the one I left behind.
 
Not more fucked up.  Just as.
 
You’d try to say that I’m wrong for thinking like that too. And you know what I’d say to that?
 
Fuck you. Plain and simple.
 

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33. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 6

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11 July 2011

– Man, Earl looked at Tony like he was out his goddamn mind, bruh. Told Tony hell naw he ain’t doin’ no crazy shit like that. So Tony backs down and holds his hands up all surprised and shit, ‘cause Earl ain’t never really been the type a nigga to stick up for hisself, know what I’m sayin’? I bet Tony was expectin’ my cuz to hang his head, nod and shit like, alright, Tony. Whatever you say, massa. Yessuh, right away suh, and shit. Probably ‘cause that’s what Earl usually be doing, you know what I’m sayin’? Nigga’s soft sometimes, son. But I taught Earl better than that. Since we was kids, bruh.

– Taught him to stick up for hisself. Like—you want to hear how I taught this nigga?

– I remember this one time, me and Earl was sittin’ in the crib, his mom’s crib, watchin’ MTV, and Earl turn ‘round askin’ if he can watch G.I. Joe. [Mr. Price holds his hands up, about a foot apart] That’s the generation gap right there, you know what I’m sayin’? I only got ‘bout three years on the nigga, but three years is a lot when I’m fourteen and the little nigga’s only eleven.

– I was in junior high back then, son. MTV was like the dictionary back in junior high, back when they was still ‘bout music and shit. Like Yo! MTV Raps. Loved that shit. Not like they is now, stupid ass reality shows and a bunch a uppity rich niggas and bitches talkin’ ‘bout how much money they got. Fuck that. You watched MTV back in the day and you was runnin’ things ‘round the time that school bell ring. Walkin’ through the hallways like a fuckin’ hip hop encyclopedia and shit. People be askin’ you, yo, what up with that new Biggie video, nigga? And me? Man, I seen that shit like two weeks ago. Got every scene memorized. Me and my niggas, we used to go ‘round testin’ each other; say some shit like, who yo’ favorite nigga from New Kids on the Block and shit, and if you got any answer but fuck you nigga then you gettin’ ranked on[1] for the rest a the year, know what I’m sayin’?

– But Earl, he wasn’t ‘bout that yet back then, bruh. Nigga was still playing with Legos and shit, know what I’m sayin’?

– So Earl ask to watch G.I. Joe this day and I’m watchin’ MTV so I say hell naw, and he just look at me all sad and shit and turn back ‘round, ain’t say shit to me ‘bout it. But that’s my little cuz, bruh. I can’t let the nigga turn bitch on me. So I kicked his ass in the back a his head, hard as hell, so it sounded like when you hit one a them big ass plastic garbage cans. [Mr. Price chuckles] Big head nigga. Put my foot right in his skull, bruh, and he turn ‘round lookin’ like he ‘bout to cry, askin’ me why I hit him. And I’m like don’t cry nigga, and don’t ask me why I kicked you. Kick me back. So the nigga kicks me in the shin, right? And my whole leg goes numb. I almost punched him dead in his mouth but he looked so damn scared I just rubbed my leg and told him this: you ain’t goin’ get shit actin’ like you ain’t got a dick between yo legs. You gotta fight for what’s yours, son, ‘cause these niggas out here on the streets, they’ll take everything from yo ass in a second if you don’t. And Earl? Earl lookin’ at me like I’m fuckin’ Jesus Christ on a cross, like my words was gospel.

– I schooled that nigga, bruh. That was me talkin’ when he told Tony he was outta his goddamn mind, tryin’ ta kill hisself.

– Then what? Tony kept talkin’, that’s what. Nigga ain’t know how to just shut the fuck up. And everything I taught Earl fell outta his ear and he went and fucked his whole life up.


[1] “Ranked on”: one of many slang terms for being made fun of by your peers.

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32. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 7

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24 June 2011

– It wasn’t just Tony’s plan. Earl was practically the mastermind, from what Tony told me. And if you knew Tony, you’d know that he couldn’t lie. It was like he had no filter between his mind and his face, his expressions just automatically showed how he felt, even if he tried to deny it. Like I remember when we met—[1]

– How’d Earl react to the plan? He was all for it!

– Tony barely said anything. All he told Earl was it’d be easier if everybody just thought he was dead, just to get away from all the shit going on in his life. Half-joking like, you know? And suddenly Earl’s all smiles, patting him on the back, telling him how he’d do anything to help Tony—his friend. [Ms. D’Amico shakes her head] That’s what I don’t understand about it all. He was completely supportive of Tony, helped him plan the entire thing. It was Earl’s idea to steal the body from Tony’s anatomy class. It was Earl’s idea to use that old house, it was his idea for Tony to take his truck and run.

– You think Tony could have came up with all of that, the frame of mind he was in? You think desperation makes you think clearly? Tony couldn’t have done all of this on his own during good times, so what makes anybody think he was the mastermind?


[1] Ms. D’Amico goes into a pretty lengthy description of how she noticed these characteristics about Anthony from the moment she met him at a local restaurant where she bartended at the time. Ms. D’Amico is a picture of instability during this account, switching between sadness, anger, and happiness about her relationship with Anthony and the resultant lovechild. She sums up the description by explaining that she only agreed to conduct this interview as a form of catharsis, before finally returning to the topic at hand.

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28. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 6

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24 June 2011

[Ms. D’Amico sighs and gazes out the window] You know, there are things I regret in my life. And I know there were things Tony regretted. But I don’t regret meeting him, and I don’t think he regretted doing what he did.

– The only thing he regretted was letting Earl take the fall. You don’t know how hard it was for him to even ask Earl for help in the first place. He almost didn’t ask him, and he said he would have backed off immediately if Earl hadn’t been so eager. He said Earl was the one who planned most of it, actually.

– Tony was devastated about how Earl got blamed for it all, even though it was Earl’s idea. And if Earl had known that, known that Tony was extremely sorry for everything that happened, maybe he wouldn’t have taken him away from me, away from his kid. Maybe my son wouldn’t be growing up right now without a fath— [Ms. D’Amico’s voice cracks, and she pauses. After a moment, she gives a pained smile] But, then, things are never that simple, are they?

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27. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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January 24 2003

Morning: 5 out of 10

Afternoon: 4 out of10

Evening: 6 out of 10

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about that visit to Miami Dade the other day. I’m thinking I really accomplished something with that advisor, like I got her to see something in me, like determination maybe, or anything other than bullshit. Halfway through the conversation, there was this total one-eighty in her body language from when we started talking; she pushed her shoulders back, looked me in the eye, smiled a little. That’s got to mean something. By time I left, I kind of liked her actually. She reminded me of my mom, who could be a real bitch sometimes but she was always a real bitch. Like, she was skeptical about everything and didn’t try to hide it, but she would also help you as long as you were willing to help yourself and didn’t try to b.s. her. The Miami Dade advisor told me at one point that Florida has this thing, an articulation agreement between community colleges and the state universities. I asked her what the hell an articulation agreement was and she told me it was basically this guarantee that if I get my A.A. from Miami Dade—or any community college in the state—I’ll be automatically accepted into any university in the state.[1]

That sounds pretty cool to me, really cool actually. Almost like that articulation agreement was specially made for people like me, people who fall off track for a couple of years and decide to get back on after a while. It’s not a sure thing yet. I got the paperwork, but who knows. I’ve got to go around to a couple of places like my high school and FIU so I can get all my records transferred over which, knowing me, might prove to be too much of a hassle. I never know how I’m going to react to anything in the long run. I might wake up tomorrow and think this is all bullshit. But, I mean, I’m feeling it right now. And Dr. Silver said it would be good for me, and he hasn’t led me astray yet. So maybe. Probably. Hopefully. Hopefully I can go to Miami Dade for two years then leave all of this behind, move up to Gainesville for to UF, or Tallahassee for FSU. Orlando and UCF. Boca and FAU. I looked up all the state universities and it’s like there’s one in any part of Florida I’d ever want to go to. UNF in Jacksonville, UWF in Pensacola, USF Tampa.

It’s crazy, to think I could be living on my own in one of those cities in a couple years, not working as a fry cook anymore, studying and doing something better with myself. I’m tired of everything here. Tired of all that heat coming from the fryer at work, the way the only emotion you’re allowed to let out around anybody at that place—in this whole goddamn city—is anger. Anger’s accepted—promoted—around the people I have to see every day. The people I work with, they all tell everybody they’re “going back to school soon, son. I’ma get my education son and I’ma do something with myself cuz.” And it’s all bullshit. You can see it in their eyes that it’s bullshit. They’re content being fry and grill and broil cooks for the rest of their life if they can, burning grease into the creases of their skin and spending their checks on streaming supplies of weed, coke and strippers. They’re not all bad, but the good ones always do the bad stuff for a while then move on to better things. I’m a good one. I really believe I am now.

I need to move on. I don’t want to be stuck. I can’t deal with that crowd anymore. I need a goal, something to look forward to or I’m going to slip right back into the frame of mind that got me here in the first place. I think things might be different for me now though. I feel motivated for the first time in a while, and I’m still trying to get used to it, and sometimes I can feel that edge of panic coming on me again, like it used to, and I get scared I’m going to start up with the attacks and the depression and lose all this hope I’ve gained. But then it goes away and I think I’ll be alright.

I still don’t know what I want to do, but I do want to do something. And who knows, maybe I will still end up in one of those practical careers, the “money-making” ones. I don’t know, but I do know I’m just going to roll with it, do what feel’s right and see what happens. It’s exciting, I’ll admit it. Both not knowing where your future is going and knowing that you finally have control over finding out.


[1] Florida’s articulation agreement guarantees entrance into state universities with a qualifying Associate of Arts degree from a community college, providedthe program the student wants to enter at the university level is not limited access.

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26. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 5

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11 July 2011

– Everybody got problems, son. Tony ain’t have no right to put his on Earl. But he did. He put all that shit together, all them bullshit excuses: his bitch left him, he got fired from his job—

What?

– Man, hell naw. Tony’s dumbass couldn’t a gotten in on no med school shit. Nigga got fired, bruh. Was doin’ some shit in social work or somethin’. Was broke as shit too, had ‘bout a month before they kicked his ass out his apartment. Nigga had student loans comin’ out his ass, jackin’ all his pay checks—heard them loans is a bitch, son, that’s why I never got into that college shit. Nigga had all that shit goin’ on then he got fired, so now he ain’t even got no check for the muhfuckin’ loan people to jack. Pussy-less and broke, that’s how Tony came to Earl’s crib and asked him for help. If you ever saw the nigga, that’s the reason he’d give you for fuckin’ up Earl’s life.

– All bullshit though, bruh. All bullshit. He a coward. A bitch. Plain and simple.

– What you mean? The nigga asked Earl to help him. Fuck else I’m supposed to say?

– Bruh, ain’t that the reason you got me down here?

– ‘Cause a that crazy muhfucka Tony’s bullshit plan?

– Shit got my cuz locked up, son? You tellin’ me you ain’t heard this shit?

– Bruh, Tony came at Earl at his crib—muhfuckin’ balls on this nigga. Couldn’t have pulled that shit on me, I’da capped his ass right there in the kitchen, bruh. Like how they be putting horses down when they break a leg and shit? Yeah, bruh, I’da taken Tony’s ass out just like that son. Come at me with some shit like that in my crib? Disrespect, bruh. Nigga came at Earl like Earl was a fuckin’ idiot or something, told Earl straight up—damn, you ain’t heard thisshit for real?

– You goin’ laugh yo ass off—Tony stepped to Earl like he was Don Corleone and shit, know what I’m sayin’? Tapped Earl on the chest and told Earl what Earl was goin’ do, you see? Ain’t give the brother a choice, just straight up told him. Said—here’s the shit you ain’t goin’ believe—Tony says, Earl, you goin’ help me kill myself.

– Muhfuckin’ suicide, bruh. Nigga stepped to Earl like, you helpin’ me kill myself, and ain’t shit you goin’ say about it.

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25. Interview with Graham Baker: Part 2

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16 July 2011

– People trying to escape their lives, they do it for all types of reasons.

– Well, one of the most common is the abused spouse, the housewife whose getting six, seven hours of punishment a day from her husband: extension cords, tree branches, lamps, elbow to the head, you name it. These women, they deal with that crap because he’s the father of their child, because he has them thinking that him, he’s scary, but the world, that’s scarier. They deal and deal until one day they come inside the house and their kid, their daughter or son, he or she’s curled up in the corner with a black eye and big, purple bruises across their thighs and back. Maybe they’ve been touched in an unsavory manner to boot, you get me?

– And when she says something to the father, he lays her out. I mean, really gives it to her. And that’s the last straw.

– In that case, the first step is to grab what you can, the kid or kids and a week’s worth of clothes, any money or jewelry you’ve got access to. Stick a dish rag in the gas tank of the man’s car, light a match and watch the vehicle explode from a safe distance, you get me? Or if you’re not trying to cause a ruckus, sugar in the gas tank’s a good move too. Take out his mode of transportation and make sure you got one of your own, even if it’s your feet taking you to a bus station or a train depot. As long as you hit the road. And quickly.

– That’s step one. That’s the first move in a long process that takes a lot of planning. You can’t just up and make decisions like this. And if your husband ain’t beating on you or threatening your life, you might do better to just divorce him if you’re that unhappy. Otherwise, this life, the new life of the pseudocider, it ain’t worth it unless it’s really worth it, you get me?

– This is real stuff. You’ll see. It’s all in my book. Grab a copy when you get a chance.

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24. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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10-12-08:
 
Everybody’s on edge here, all the time like we’re seconds away from fucking Armageddon.
 
Like aliens are about to invade and spray us with death rays. I’m talking War of the Worlds/Independence Day type shit.
 
No, Deep Impact. Yeah. That’s what people act like in here, like meteors are a couple thousand miles away and tumbling towards earth.
 
It’s just this general sense of impending doom, like everybody’s waiting for—no, wait, fuck that—expecting the final “lights out” call at any moment.
 
Anxious for the whole world to turn into a vacuum and suck all the life out of each prison cell, one by one.
 
It’s the oldest excuse for anarchy, if you think about it. The reason why huge groups of people rise up and yell and scream and loot and plunder and rape and murder every time there’s some natural disaster or their backyards turn into a warzone.
 
My cellmate is this guy named Paul. He looks normal, for the most part. Could be a rapist for all I know. He watches me when I pee like he’s just waiting for me to stop looking at him out the corner of my eye. I can hear him at night, whispering my name in his sleep with a different emphasized syllable each time, “Eaaaaarl, Earlllllll.”
 
And I’ve only been here for three months. You telling me I deserve this shit?

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23. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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January 22 2003

Morning: 3 out of 10

Afternoon:4 out of 10

Night: 8 out of 10

I passed by Miami Dade[1] this morning and spoke to one of their advisors, this old Cuban lady with gray-streaked black hair. She stared at me over her glasses and she looked bored the moment I walked up, before I even said anything.

And I know that look. I get it all the time now.

I know it, and I know where it comes from. It comes from this five o’clock shadow, the scars on my arms, the tattoos. I know, I know what I look like. They see all that, my wrinkled clothes, my permanent frown and my skin tone, and they give me that look.

People see me and, since I live in Miami, they assume I’m Hispanic and this Cuban lady this morning started in with her “Que lo que lo que” bullshit and I just held up my hand, said the only two words I know, “no habla.” And then she gave the look again.

Add that little detail to the whole package, my lack of bilingual talents, and people around here lose interest, start to think I’m just another junkie, recovering or not. Or a thief, a regular fucking clepto trying to prove something to somebody, maybe that I can go a whole semester without fucking up. They think I’m way older than I actually am, like I’m not still a kid, even though that’s exactly what I feel like. A kid. But they don’t see it like that.

It’s funny: once people view you as an adult, a grown man, they lose all sympathy for your troubles. You become more than just a burden; you become a problem.

I know what they say to themselves, to others when I leave.

“He’s probably on parole,” they say. They turn around to the person at the next desk and say, “if he thinks the government’s going to give him any money for school with his record, he’s lost his damn mind.”

I’ve never been locked up, but if it was up to these people I’d be behind bars just for looking like I belong there.

I can see it right now, when I close my eyes. They turn around to their co-workers when I leave and they’re like “he’s just trying to impress somebody so he can swindle them out of one thing or another. Like their trust.”

They say to each other that—when the novelty of the whole “school thing” wears off—I’ll drop it all over again, just like I probably have so many times before. Just like they know I have.

Usually, in the face of this type of oppression, I tuck my tail and run. Prove everybody right. I don’t know how to deal with that type of pressure. I had my rebellion stage, got over it, but that doesn’t mean I grew out completely.

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t aged at all. Sometimes I feel like all that happened to me after the accident was I forgot what I used to be like, and everything associated with it. Like my mind reverted back to middle school, where keeping up to date on video games and comics were all I had to worry about. Like I’m back in a time before all my friends left town for school and the ones that didn’t were either hooked on drugs or busy taking care of their kids, or both.

I have to tell myself every day I’m not living back then anymore. This is now. Today is today. But I feel like it’s hitting me now, like I’m finally realizing this is all I’ve got, today and tomorrow. Yesterday’s gone.

So I looked that old lady at the Miami Dade advisor’s office straight in her face and told her I wanted to enroll. Made sure my expression said “I don’t want any bullshit either.”

And, you know what? She opened up. Surprised the shit out of me. She eyed me up and down for a second then smiled and started telling me all types of stuff about degrees and colleges and state universities and the whole deal. Overwhelmed the shit out of me.

Funny thing, because I went in that room only trying to get a feel for it all, per Doc Silver’s suggestion. See if it really had been just too long for me to be comfortable coming back. I mean, it’s only been like two years since I was a “college student,” but so much has happened since then I can barely remember caring enough about an education to actually get one.

I went in today just to test it out, that’s all. But the way that lady looked at me when I walked in, I wanted to prove her wrong before she could even get herself started on judging me. And it felt so good, that feeling, that I want to prove everybody wrong now. I want to shut the whole world up, jab my middle finger in the air and wipe my ass with their doubts.

I know, hostile. But it’s not like before. I’m smiling as I’m writing this. That doesn’t happen very often.


[1] Miami Dade College, formerly (at the time of this journal entry) Miami Dade Community College

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22. Interview with Dr. Aileen Parks: Part 2

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16 July 2011

– It is ridiculous, in a sense. And the repayment of student loans is no small feat either. Student loans are some of the most unforgiving debts a person can have in this country.

There are several options when it comes to dealing with student loans. The first is to make payments on the loan according to the payment plan the lender gives you following graduation. A set payment for a set period of time, negotiated when you first obtained the loan funds, with some lenders giving you the option to pay based on income or on a graduated scale, etcetera.

– Another option is to consolidate your loans and lengthen the payment schedule from, say, the typical ten years to fifteen or thirty, depending how much the total sum of your loans amounts to. This option has positives in that your payments will be less, but the interest will be more.

– Yet another option is deferment or forbearances. Both of these mean that you won’t have to make payments for a set period of time for various provable reasons on your part—economic hardship, graduate school, etcetera—with the former being a pause on your repayment schedule and the latter being a temporary forgiveness of those months of payment. In other words, deferments push back the final date of payment from the time you end your deferment period; with forbearances, however, the ten year period remains the same, which therefore means that when your forbearance is over and your payments start again, the monthly bill will be higher so that you can meet the final date of repayment.

– The last option? Default, or not paying the loans back at all. This is an option that isn’t really an option, though. There are all types of penalties for not paying back student loans: revoked tax benefits, ineligibility for future deferments, a severely lowered credit score, inability to receive professional licenses, garnished wages—the list is extensive and fairly harsh. Essentially, not paying your student loans can cancel out the positives of having a degree in the first place. And, as I said, this isn’t a situation where bankruptcy helps. In all likelihood, the only possible way to get out of repaying student loans without defaulting is in death.

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21. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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10-2-08:
 
The guards here, they’re the worst though. They’re completely brainwashed by the entire system.
 
They stand up in the rafters looking down at us, judging and giving us those smug grins, bristling like over-content pigs ready for slaughter, like they’re not being looked down on themselves, demigods with tasers.
 
Either they’re too stupid to realize the truth or too incompetent and self-absorbed to care. They think they’re on top of shit, that they’re completely in control. They have no idea what’s going on half the time though. It’s all balls and muscle with them, like army drill sergeants only with less power.
 
Can’t say I didn’t expect it. I’ve seen the inside of too many prisons to be surprised. Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. Life, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, the lighter side of things. The Hurricane with Denzel, another good one.
 
You see that shit and then you turn around and see something like, say, Full Metal Jacket, Sergeant Hartman breaking those kids down for Vietnam, and there’s not much difference.
 
A prison’s a prison. Prisonalways plays out the same, and so do the prisoners.
 
The ones here are just as pissed off as the rest too. Just the other day this one guy they call T-Bone (his head really does look like one, I gotta admit) broke this other dude’s jaw playing ball out on the court. Rammed the guy’s face into a pole, twice. T-Bone said the guy fouled him too hard. I was watching the game. Dude didn’t touch T-Bone.
 
Everybody’s gotta find their own ways of releasing things.

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20. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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January 12 2003

Morning: 3 out of 10

Afternoon: 7 out of 10

Night: 6 out of 10

Nice session today. Kind of got me thinking about some stuff that might help me out. Me and Doc were going back and forth as usual, me lying back on “The Couch,” (it’s not nearly as ominous as it sounds; just a big brown lumpy thing that looks like it might’ve been passed down from Doc Silver Sr.), him asking me something, me telling him I don’t know how to answer that crap, him asking it again and me getting pissed off.

Only, today he just sort of jumped forward in his chair in the middle of the routine, when I was about to start my usual rant, and told me I should think about going back to school. Stared at me afterwards with his mouth slightly open, like he’d just had a jarring epiphany or something and thought that I should be having one too. He told me I should pursue a degree in something, anything that might fix me. He used the word fix. I don’t think shrinks are supposed to use the word fix. He changed it like two seconds later though and started babbling on about how he thinks school “might help you sort yourself out, Anthony.” He says that a lot too, “sort yourself out.” Don’t know if that’s a British thing or what, but it makes me feel like my mind’s this huge filing cabinet with a bunch of shit poking out of the drawers. Not a pleasant image.

I asked him why he just blurted it out like that, about the school thing, and he said it just hit him, right then that he thinks part of my problem is I’ve got an overactive mind. That it’s not just a chemical imbalance that I can throw pills at, that I need other-shit. That I don’t have enough other-shit to think about so all I keep in my head is bad-shit.

“Yuh think too much about the little things in your life, Tony,” he said. “If yuh occupy your mind with lots of rubbish, you’ll start to feel like rubbish. Occupy it with the pleasantries of life, and things might start to look up for yuh.”

I don’t know what the hell all that’s got to do with him thinking I should go back to school, if he’s saying I’m too smart for my own good or I’m a headcase or he just wants me to leave him the fuck alone. My guess is all of the above.

Either way, I have to admit the idea sounds tempting the way he put it. I mean, I hated high school, don’t get me wrong. And my first attempt at college—that shit sucked. That’s where all this crap started, actually, in school. The drugs and alcohol and general not-giving-a-shit-about-tomorrow type of mentality; it all started in ninth grade, in the hallways at Sideview High and on the P.E. field after school and out by the bus stops. That’s where my mind started stabbing itself with this rusty knife. And my first failed attempt at college just gave me a sharper knife to jab with. So it’s a wonder I’m willing to even think about anything associated with the word education.

But, I mean, at the same time, things are so different now. I think I could do it if I wanted to. It’s not like there’s been this huge gap of time that I’ve been out of the academic circle. It’s not like it’s too late. I’m only twenty. It’s still early, I think. It’s just that—and I know how this is going to sound—my mom’s barely been rested in the ground a year and I’m already thinking about moving on to “bigger and better” things?

That’s not right. Can’t be.

I don’t know how long you’re supposed to mourn people, but I’d think there’s like a hierarchy when it comes to that sort of thing. Like, you’ve known somebody your whole life so it should take another lifetime to get over them.

But the idea’s so tempting. To go back to school on my own terms. Somewhere besides FIU too. To do what Anthony wants to do, as opposed to what’s going to make the most money.

Tell the truth, I don’t even know what the hell I like. I’ve had so much crap shoved in my face about what the best professions are that I haven’t had a chance to think about what I want. You push somebody in one direction long enough, their path turns into a tunnel. And eventually they’re going to look up and wonder why they can’t see the sky. The whole world seems like a playground when you’re not constrained anymore. If I went back to school, I could leave Miami without having to worry about what I’m leaving behind.

And I need to get out of here. I can’t start over when there’s so much around me that’s never going to change. Who knows, college might be my ticket.

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19. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 5

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24 June 2011

– Yeah, you need to find Earl and talk to him about all of this. I bet he’ll have one hell of a story for you. One hell of a story, all soap opera drama too, the way everybody always does when they know they’re in the wrong. [Ms. D’Amico indicates quotation marks with her fingers] “He did this, he did that, woe is me, woe is me.” Upset because he didn’t get laid for a little while, or his fucking Facebook page didn’t get updated for a few months. Whatever the hell the reason was he decided it would be okay to murder somebody who considered him a friend. Who was his friend. His friend in need.

– Hasn’t been proven. But it was Earl. I know it was him. Tony was scared shitless about Earl. Had to be a reason for that. Earl murdered him, and I wish I could prove it and clear Tony’s name.

– God, you sound just like the detective. No, I don’t have any evidence, and Earl’d probably tell you some B.S. alibi, or try and convince you he was justified though. I don’t give a damn what his side of the story is though.

– Why should I? What’d he lose? He still had everything when he got out of prison, he still had his—his identity, his dignity, his sense of self. What did Tony have? Guilt and fear. Two years in prison, that’s all Earl gave to a man who trusted him with his life. You’ve got actors and actresses out there with prison records making millions. Lindsay Lohan’s been on probation for years. Lil’ Wayne just got out and he’s got like three platinum records. What the hell’s the big deal? But Earl doesn’t see it like that. Earl got out of prison and turned around and took that man that trusted him with his life, took him away from everything Tony had worked so hard to rebuild. And I’m supposed to relate to that? No. I can’t understand somebody like that. People like him, like—like Earl Bishop, [Ms. D’Amico spits towards the floor] they’re cowards.

– Yes. Definitely. Earl just sounded like that type of guy, the type of guy to try and twist everybody’s words around too. But you should still talk to him if you can find him. It’d be interesting to hear what he had to say about all of this. It’d all be bullshit, but interesting anyways. Kind of like a movie. If you do get in contact with him though, make sure you dial 911 on your cell and keep your finger on the TALK button during the conversation. I’m sure the cops would be happy to get their hands on him.

– Earl Bishop is a backstabbing murderer. He deserves the death penalty.

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18. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 4

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11 July 2011

– Consolation my ass. Tony standin’ in Earl’s apartment cryin’ and snottin’ all over the place and shit ‘cause some heifer who was fuckin’ him on the side ain’t want his ass no more. Nigga ain’t need no consolation in that situation. Needed a kick in the head. And, way Earl told me, Tony knew ‘bout it, too. Tony standin’ there mad as hell, actin’ like a little bitch, but he can’t say nothin’ to Louise ‘cause he knew the whole goddamn time she was triflin’. He knew he was the nigga-on-the-side, knew he was her backup player, he just ain’t let on that he knew, know what I’m sayin’? And the nigga still wanna flip when she drop his ass.

– Bruh, I wish I coulda seen Tony, explained the situation to him, you know what I’m sayin’? Laid it out like a blueprint, step by step like, Tony, bruh, homegirl wanna set things right with her star player,son. [Mr. Price claps his hands together in excitement] She don’t want Tony “Pussy Whooped” Stephens in the dugout no more, know what I’m sayin’? Not to say she ain’t havin’ tryouts for a replacement sub, or that she ain’t already got some other brother waitin’ for his turn at bat. She just don’t want Tony hoggin’ up the bench no mo’, know what I’m sayin’? Ain’t that some shit?

– I wish I coulda seen this trick Louise too, bruh. Seen if she was worth all the shit this nigga got Earl into. Way Earl told me Tony was actin’, she betta been a dime[1]. I’m talkin’ a fat ass, son. I mean, a dime still ain’t worth yo life. But it’s betta than gettin’ capped[2] over some hoodrat bitch. I bet she wasa hoodrat though. I bet Louise was some coked-out-looking heifer. Matter a fact, I guarantee it. Brothers like that, who get like that over a bitch, it ain’t never a fine piece a ass they trippin’ over, naw. It’s always some trick two months away from her third baby and a herpes outbreak, spendin’ her welfare check on formula and weed, you know what I’m sayin’? I see ‘em ‘round here everyday, bruh. Shit, they half my clientele.


[1] A “dime” is a woman who ranks a ten on a fabricated scale of beauty, ten being the most desirable and one being the least.

[2] “Capped”: slang term for murder, mostly used by people who never have or would ever actually murder somebody.

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17. Interview with Graham Baker: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Graham Baker is a private investigator and bounty hunter in Jacksonville, FL. Over the past few years, he has frequently been an object of interest in the public eye due to the high profile captures of various celebrities on the run from the law, including but not limited to: Lindsay Lohan (cocaine possession), Lil’ Wayne (gun/marijuana possession), Charlie Sheen (domestic violence/probation violation), and Andy Dick (sexual battery). Mr. Baker works out of his office in Downtown Jacksonville which overlooks the conglomeration of buildings surrounding St. John’s River on Florida’s northeast coast.

16 July 2011

– Yes, sir. Dealt with pseudocide[1] on many an occasion.

[Mr. Baker chuckles]It’s a science. Not for everybody, I’ll tell you that. It’s kind of like—alright, put it in layman’s terms, it’s kind of like a one night stand where the girl ends up pregnant, you get me? A drunken, spur of the moment decision that drastically changes at least one person’s life, depending on whether or not the guy sticks around, but he’s not thinking like that when he goes in that room, right? He just wants to get laid. [Mr. Baker chuckles again]

– It’s the truth, hombre. And, in the same vein of thought, most pseudociders, they’re operating off of instinct. They don’t care about the consequences, they just want that one night of peace. We’ve all got the fight or flight plan built in to our DNA. Some people have just got different triggers than others. But what most people don’t realize, the most difficult thing about pseudocide is you’ve got to leave everything behind. I mean everything.

– Most people don’t think about that when the idea pops into their head. Or maybe they do but they don’t really know what it means. They see the bills piling up, their boss is on their ass day in, day out, they got a girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or husband at home whose treating them like shit, loan sharks are breathing down their neck, pick your poison. And they think, I could leave all this behind. I could definitely leave all this behind. But your job, your spouse, your finances, all of that’s only part of who you are, you follow?

– We humans, we’re complicated creatures. Very complicated. When people go through with the task of disappearing who they’ve been their entire life, when they realize they really can’t go back to anything that’s ever defined them as a person, that they’ve got to resort to all types of drastic measures to really get away—I’m talking total identity annihilation, sometimes even plastic surgery if you’ve got the type of features that are easily identifiable—they usually snap. And that’s when they make the mistakes that get them caught by whoever’s looking for them, any type of hunter, from the crazy stalker to the FBI. It’s all outlined in my book, The Pseudocider’s Handbook. Check it out some time.


[1] Pseudocide: a slang term meant to indicate the act of faking one’s own death.

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16. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 4

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24 June 2011

[Ms. D’Amico becomes increasingly agitated at the repeated mentioning of Earl Bishop’s name] I’ll tell you what his goddamn part in all this was, the son of a—

– Alright, I can understand some things. I really can. But Tony went to Earl for help because he was lost, okay? Floundering. He’d just gotten kicked out of med school for his grades, his student loan payments were about to kick in and, topping it all off, that bitch Louise left him. Just one more problem added to the heap of accumulated shit he already had piled up around him. No close family, no girlfriend, no friends besides Earl.

– Wouldn’t you consider that lost?

– Have you ever hit rock bottom?

– What type of things would you do to be happy? I bet you’d say there’s a lot, right? Most people think they’d do anything, no problem, but they’re usually too chicken shit to go through with any of it. That’s exactly what it is. Most people would look down at Tony and say he did what he did because he’s a coward or whatever, but they’d only say that because they could never do what he did. Because he did something that went completely against mainstream society. Because he didn’t roll over and play the good little debt ridden and miserable college graduate the way people expected him to. Who says it’s not okay to just start over? Who made that decision?

– Most people believe with all their heart that all they want is happiness, but everybody has their limits. Tony just didn’t see prolonged misery as an option.

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15. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 3

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11 July 2011

– What happened to Earl? Tony happened to Earl, that’s what. Came at my cousin like a straight bitch, bruh. Straight bitch.

– Man, please, Tony just a bitch. He ain’t have no problem but hisself. Straight up, just a weak ass, pussy ass little bitch who got a taste a some punanny[1] and lost his goddamn mind.

– Whose name?

– The bitch Tony did all this over? Louise.

– Yeah. Earl told me ‘bout Tony and Louise. This nigga Tony came ‘round Earl’s crib with all this bullshit ‘bout how Louise done fucked his life up, how this trick[2] done got all up in his head then left his ass dry. I’ll never get that shit, son. But it just be happenin’ like that sometimes, know what I’m sayin’?

– The pussy, man. Government be talkin’ ‘bout war on drugs and shit [Mr. Price chuckles]Need to be a war on pussy, bruh. That shit right there—that’s some addictive shit for yo’ ass. Niggas like Tony Stephens, they get a ounce a punanny and they be fiendin’ for more, son. After just one hit they start actin’ like pussy’s platinum or somethin’, like they walkin’ up in Jake’s and coppin’ the whole spot with just that little piece a ass. Problem with niggas like that though…they act like its straight up dope for real, like supply runnin’ out. Like there ain’t enough pussy out there for every brother on this planet to get they fuck on, twice.

– Yeah, man. Earl told me all ‘bout Tony and Louise. ‘Bout Tony’s [Mr. Price kisses his teeth and sneers] women problems.

– Tony weren’t nothin’ but product to that bitch.[3] She left his ass for the next dick and he damn near lost his mind, ‘cause he ain’t got no game, bruh. Nigga’s game was weak, son.

– What got me was—hear this, Earl told me all ‘bout this shit—Tony’s fucking this bitch for a hot minute, right? And, all a sudden, one day he walk up in Louise’s crib to get him a piece and she all decked out in her hoochie gear ‘bout to hit the club, tellin’ Tony he ain’t allowed to come over no mo’, know what I’m sayin’?

– She done, bruh. This trick been done with Tony for days and he still standin’ there with his hands out like a crackhead beggin’ change, and Louise tellin’ him straight up: you been locked out the punanny. No mo’ pussy, nigga. None a them middle-a-the-afternoon fuck sessions, no mo’ whisperin’ on the phone, gigglin’ and talkin’ ‘bout what y’all goin’ do to each other. Nothin’. She says to Tony, she got another nigga now, says she won’t be needin’ Tony’s dick-down services no mo’, know what I’m sayin’? [Wayne laughs for a few seconds] Way Earl told me too, son, this trick Louise, she left Tony, but she ain’t leave him for just any old nigga neither. Naw, son. Tony came at Earl and told him Louise was standin’ there in her finest gold-diggin’ gear, and she tells Tony her new nigga ain’t actually new. Tells Tony, straight up, she got a fiancé bruh. Been had a nigga she was ‘bout to marry. Two years they been engaged, since before she even met this muhfucka Tony. Tony been her side project, know what I’m sayin’? And she don’t want his ass no mo’ ‘cause she going back to her main nigga. Ain’t that some shit? Triflin’, bruh. Triflin’.


[1] “Punanny”: a slang term (originating in the West Indies) referring to female genitalia.

[2] Derogatory term that can mean both a promiscuous woman as well as men that have intercourse with prostitutes. In this instance, Mr. Price is using the word in the former meaning, as opposed to the latter.

[3] In context, Wayne’s use of “product” refers to the economic term for items bought and sold. It is used here as a derogatory term, implying that Anthony Stephens was nothing more than a possession, rather than a living, breathing human being.

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14. Interview with Dr. Aileen Parks: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Dr. Aileen Parks is formerly the Executive Director of the Financial Aid Department at University of North Florida, currently teaching graduate courses in the Political Science department. A petite but forceful looking woman in her mid forties, Dr. Parks has an air of prestige that surrounds her like a cloud. Dr. Parks has agreed to be a consultant regarding the current state of the U.S. college system, a relevant area of expertise for the current investigation.

16 July 2011

– Of course. A tricky subject, the inner workings of the financial market known commonly as the post-secondary education industry.

[Dr. Parks gives a smug grin] Yes, financial market, that’s no slip of the tongue. Universities are and have been, for a fairly long time now, an industrial market no different than, say, the car or computer industry. Make no mistake, post-secondary educational institutions are businesses. Businesses operating under the mask of public service.

– Well, that all depends on what aspect of education financing you’re speaking of. For example, and according to recent studies, majority of bachelor’s degree recipients walk across that graduation stage with over $25,000 dollars in student loans, the average debt for graduates not pursuing a post-bachelor’s degree. This is money that is necessary to fund the ever-increasing costs of their college education.

– It sounds like an insignificant amount in the long-term scheme of things, so I’ll put that number in perspective: the average loan terms put repayment as taking place over a period of 120 months—or ten years. With current federal loan interest rates as high as 6.8%—private loan interest rates are much higher—and a total loan amount at the average stated of $25,000, the lowest a typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to be financially liable for are payments of around $270 a month for the next ten years of their post-collegiate life. This is a low-end figure. These graduates will eventually pay out an average total of $32,000, including $9,000 in interest alone, strictly for federal loans. Private loans are an even more aggressive breed, coming in at sometimes quadruple that amount.

– Yes. That’s the average. That includes all students in the college system, includes the students receiving full paid scholarships, includes the student’s whose parents are poor enough to meet the requirements to receive financial assistance that they don’t have to pay back. And anybody familiar with mean—or average—calculations knows that introducing a zero value into the numerator and adding a one to the denominator drastically changes the resulting value of the average. Some students are lucky enough to have none or lower-than-average debt coming out of a four year public or private university. Most are not.

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13. Interview with Dr. Jeffrey Silver

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Dr. Jeffrey Silver is Anthony Stephens’ former psychiatrist. A native of London, he received his undergraduate degree from Cambridge University, at which point he migrated to the United States to complete his residency at John Hopkins University. Dr. Silver currently works out of Baptist Hospital in Miami, Florida, where he was recently promoted to head of the psychiatric ward.

26 June 2011

– Ah, yes. Anthony. How is he?

– Dead? That’s…tragic. I’m sorry to hear.

– Yes, yes. But I must inform you, I cannot answer anything that violates doctor-patient privacy.

– Yes. I’m terribly sorry to hear about his demise. And yet, still…

– Anthony came a long way before he left for college.

– I said no such thing. I said he came a long way.

– I understand, it is vague for a reason. As I’ve said, I cannot violate doctor-patient privilege.

– I did not say that either.

– Sir, I’d quite like it if you didn’t try to out-psyche a psychiatrist. It’s a bit of an insult.

– I would tell you to ask him yourself but, as you’ve just informed me, he’s dead. Therefore, all I can say is I’m sorry, but I can’t help you any further. If that is all though, I must be going. I have patients to attend to.

– It’s been a pleasure.

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12. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 3

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24 June 2011

– You really don’t know anything, do you?

– I can’t get a line on you.

– It’s like, for a second you seem like you know more about everything than I do, but then you’ll say something and I’ll think you barely know anything at all. It’s weird. You remind me so much of him actually.

– Of Le—Tony, I mean.

– I don’t know. I don’t even know who you a—

– Fucking A. Whatever. I don’t even know why I’m—he’s dead. I told myself I’d stop acting like he wasn’t. He probably would’ve wanted someone to know anyways. Les was a lonely man—Tony was, I mean. And Les—dammit.

– There is no Les Palmer, ok? There. Les Palmer was a figment of Tony’s imagination. His new identity. It was Tony. Just Tony. It’s always been about Tony.

– Tony made up Les to protect himself after what happened. That whole thing between him and Earl, it got him all paranoid and he just needed a cover, I guess.

[Ms. D’Amico seems suddenly upset]No. Hell no. I don’t know anything about Earl except what happened between them in Tallahassee. I’ve never met him. If you find him though, call somebody. Do not trust him. He’s dangerous.

– You really don’t know anything, do you? That’s where all of this started. College, with Earl. Everything that happened: Earl going to jail, Tony moving down here, becoming Les and getting killed, all of it started in Tallahassee. Tony was a completely different person back then, from what I can tell. A normal guy with normal goals and dreams. [Ms. D’Amico speaks softly] I wish I knew him then. [Ms. D’Amico pauses for a lengthy period, staring out the window, then looks up with a heat flashing suddenly in her eyes] Earl got him into this, and Earl deserves everything that’s happened to him since.

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10. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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08-27-08 (continued):
 
I went in for my weekly group therapy session last Tuesday and the doctor had the nerve to tell me I’m living in a dream world. That I need to “check in to reality.”
 
So I asked him what the hell he would choose if he was in this place—dream or nightmare?—and he changed the subject, completely ignored me. Started yapping about all the reasons we’ve got to come to these meetings, says we’ve all got “behavioral issues” we need to work on.
 
Really?
 
A bunch of grown ass men sitting around in a fucking circle, each of us locked up for different bullshit that none of us deserve to be imprisoned for, and we’re the ones with “behavioral issues”?
 
If you could’ve seen the look we all gave the doctor—like he’s the one whose got the issues. How he sees things the way he does, I don’t get it. You listen to the guys in that room, there’s not an unjustified one in the lot.
 
Tom, the guy who sits next to me, he’s in for armed robbery, some real Wild West type shit. Way he describes it, I’m thinking like an Ocean’s Eleven type situation. Or better yet, since he was by himself, more like that old school flick Thief, only in that film James Caan knew what the hell he was doing, and Tom’s not the sharpest knife on the cutting block. He got a tip that a jewelry shop owner was transporting half a pound of diamonds from one of his stores to another, and the guy making the move was some pompous fuck out of Jacksonville, taking the whole load over in the passenger seat of his ’91 Camaro, wrapped in a velvet bag with a tie around the neck. That’s it, all the security he had. Practically begging for it. Tom was in deep with some Russians over a high-stakes poker game he’d played drunk one night—they’re sitting there threatening his wife and all that—so he did what he had to do. Don’t know how he got caught—I’m assuming he didn’t plan it out right—but the point is its survival of the fittest in here and out there, and anybody who thinks otherwise is being willfully ignorant.
 
It’s most of us in here, though. All of us trying to live our lives and constantly being told what we’re doing’s not good enough.
 
Like the guy on my other side, Juan; couple of months ago, his girl slammed his baby son’s head into a wall because the baby wouldn’t shut up. So Juan slammed his girl’s head into the same wall a couple times, asked her if she liked how it felt. He’s got three years for that.
 
Another guy across the room, Jim, he’s always talking like he just stepped off the set of The Fast and the Furious. Shot his brother in the leg for stealing and crashing his brand new Mustang GT. In the leg. And he’s doing twenty.
 
And another guy, Fred, he’s doing ten years for pulling the plug on his father’s life support machine without getting his mother’s signature on the release forms. Says he didn’t want to see his old man go out like that, didn’t think it was right that he and his family couldn’t just let him go with a little bit of dignity. His mother pressed charges (which was, as I told Fred, some truly cold-blooded shit), and now he’s here in this place, visiting the same room every week with the rest of us, with me doing two years on a b.s. arson charge.
 
And they’re telling us we’ve got to go to these meetings, write in these journals, because we’ve all got “compulsive behavioral issues.”
 
Load of bullshit. These are not people with compulsive behavioral issues. These are people surviving the only way they know how.

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09. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 2

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11 July 2011

– Who the fuck is Anthony Stephens?

– You mean Tony? [Mr. Price sucks his teeth]Don’t talk ‘bout that nigga ‘round me, son. He the one started all this shit. What you know ‘bout Tony?

– Hell yeah, he started all this shit, bruh. He the reason Earl missing right now, reason why Earl got sent to the pen in the first place. Nigga had to disappear after how Tony did him. Fucked up my cuz’s life, son. Earl was ‘bout to be that typa brotha too, know what I’m sayin’? I’m talkin’ six-figures-a-year type a brotha, comin’ straight outta college with mad bread and bitches all on his dick.

– Money, son. That shit’ll get you everything, and bitches love doctors. Earl woulda had ‘em screamin’ his name five deep in his crib, [Mr. Price motions around the hotel room] place like this, penthouse suite in the city and shit, son. That’s what Earl woulda been if it wasn’t for Tony Muhfuckin’ Stephens. Earl was ‘bout to do big things.

– Naw, I never met Tony. You can talk ‘bout that nigga like he dead all you want though. If he ain’t dead, let me know. I got niggas can take care a that shit real quick.

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08. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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December 20 2002

Morning: 5 out of 10

Afternoon: 5 out of 10

Night: 2 out of 10

Pretty consistent for most of the day, until I went to work.

I was on the line and I’d just dropped an order of cheese sticks and was waiting for the fryer to beep while Raul the cook over on grill side was fixing two peppercorn steaks, and then Gabe that guido-looking Puerto-Rican server from up front came back and him and Raul got to talking about some girl they thought they’d both fucked the same night at some Christmas party last week.

Actually, this might be significant to what you, Doc Silver, say is “my social reintegration.” This is where the problems come up Doc, when this is the type of shit I’ve got to listen to everyday.

These assholes spent like twenty minutes, three overcooked burgers and a couple of dropped steaks trading clues about this girl, what her tits and ass looked like naked, where her birthmarks were, what she sounded like when she came, what time it was, the whole deal. Serious detective work for those two.

You could tell one was trying to catch the other in a lie too. Neither one of them believed the other, not because they were jealous or nothing, nothing like that. These dudes,  I’ve hung out with dudes like them my whole life. They’d not only have sex with the same girl on the same night, they’d fuck her at the same time if she was willing. Her and her friends. And not because they’d think it was like their only chance to get a piece but because it would be another story to share in the kitchen at Shambles. I’m telling you Doc, I hate working at that fucking restaurant.

And I swear, these two, they kept studying each other every time they described another part of her, like they were playing poker or something. They disagreed on her name, but then Gabe said something about a tattoo on her pelvis and Raul said, yeah, a scorpion, and then they laughed and slapped each other’s backs and it was like Fourth of July back there.

Anyways, point is all that’s going on and I’m on fry side trying to mind my own business “in the event of something making you uncomfortable”—like you told me—and this song came on the radio my manager’s got set up near the broiler.

I didn’t know what song it was at the time, not until I came home later and looked up the one line of lyric that stuck in my head like a fucking virus: I just hit the floor/don’t ask for more. Over and over again, like this constant ticker spinning around behind my eyes.

So I Googled it, just typed in the words and this song came up: “Wasting My Time” by Default.

Never heard it before. Couldn’t have, actually, not before today. I checked. It came out last week, and I don’t listen to the radio unless I’m at work. I stick to my CD’s and MP3’s: Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Method Man, anything that I can choose myself. I hate waiting for them to play something I like on the radio station, and they never do anyways.

So I’m completely confused why I responded to hearing this one song (which wasn’t even that good) by throwing myself in the walk-in cooler out back of Shambles and, for like five minutes, crying until my eyes were little slits and my tears were burning against my cheeks from the cold.

I’m never going to live this down at work, seriously. I think I might quit. I don’t need the money, my mom and the lawyers left me enough to take care of myself. But then there’s what you said, about me being bored and acting up and shit.

But, I mean, what the hell do I look like going back into work?

I’m forever going to be known as “that fry cook that started crying in the cooler like a bitch.”

And the most screwed up part of it is I don’t even know why. I mean, I like music just as much as the next guy but it’s like, every day now there’s another song that sets me off.

Couple of weeks ago it was that Gorillazrecord “Clint Eastwood.” That one’s not even sad.

Seriously, I need to get a handle on this shit. This isn’t normal. You say, Doc, that it’s good that I recognize this, recognize that it’s not normal to act like this. You say that’s step one of treatment.

But seriously, Doc…how many fucking steps are there?

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07. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 2

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24 June 2011

-I didn’t mean to mention Les. He’s—forget Les. He doesn’t matter.

– He’s just—

– Tony?

– Oh, Les? Les was—whatever, you could say Les was a character. I guess he played a part in everything that happened, in a sense. I mean—[Ms. D’Amico clears her throat nervously] Les was an artist, a true artist. A genius. No training, just a natural master of the art form. I mean, you should have seen some of his stuff. I wish you could have. You would have appreciated it.

– No particular reason. Anybody would have appreciated it, I mean. Lots of people did, all those visitors at the gallery that night, the night Tony died, they loved Les’s stuff. Loved it. Fact that he died that night made the exhibition even more popular too, screwed up as it sounds. I swear, if you can find a Les Palmer painting right now for under three grand, you’d be lucky. I’d buy it quick too, if I were you, before the person selling realizes they’re being ripped off.

– What did Les have to do with Tony.[Ms. D’Amico smiles and shrugs]I guess you could say they met when Tony moved here, around the same time I met Tony actually. He and Les kind of just—took to each other. [Ms. D’Amico laughs]

– I’m sorry, no. It’s just that—I guess you could say Les and Tony were inseparable. In a sense.

– That’s the best way I can explain it. I barely know you. So, to you, Les and Tony were inseparable.

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06. Transcript of Jane Doe Autopsy

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Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

CB # 7670 Tallahassee, FL 32308-3336

Telephone 8505559478

REPORT OF AUTOPSY EXAMINATION

DECEDENT

Document Identifier B200805895

Autopsy Type ME Autopsy

Name Jane Doe (alias)

Age 24 yrs (approx)

Race White

Sex F

AUTHORIZATION

Authorized By Benjamin Polk, MD

Received From Rinard

ENVIRONMENT

Date of Exam 05/13/2008 Time of Exam 09:25

Autopsy Facility Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

Persons Present Dr. Timothy Reynolds, Mr. James Bennett, Ms. Maggie Klein

IDENTIFICATION

Body Identified By

N/A

EXTERNAL DESCRIPTION

Length 64 inches

Weight 130 pounds

Body Condition Intact

Rigor Absent

Livor Purple – posterior

Hair Brown

Eyes Brown

Teeth N/A

The body is that of a well developed, well nourished white female, unclothed. No valuables. There are burns over ninety-nine percent of the external structure. Teeth have been removed manually at roots. Gunshot wounds to the cranium, chest, back, and leg.

Page 1 of 3 B200805895 29 May 2008 13:41

DIAGNOSES

-Gunshot wound to the skull

* Fracture, frontal

* Fracture, parietal

* Fracture, occipital

-All teeth removed manually at the root

-Partial avulsion and searing of muscle and soft tissue in head

-Partial avulsion and searing of muscle and soft tissue in trunk

-Partial avulsion and searing of muscle and soft tissue to all extremities

DISPOSITION OF CLOTHING AND PERSONAL EFFECTS

N/A

INTERNAL EXAMINATION

Cardiovascular System

Heart Weight 253 grams

Respiratory System

Lung Weight 700 grams combined

No soot present, consistent with observations of cause of death.

Gastrointestinal System

The appendix is present. The stomach contains 1/2 cup

of thick green-gray liquid with beans. The small intestine is unremarkable and the colon contains a minute amount of

green stool.

Liver

Liver Weight 1270 grams

Spleen

Spleen Weight 69 grams

Urinary

Kidney Weight 230 grams combined

Reproductive

The structures are within normal limits. Examination of the pelvic area indicates the victim had not given birth and was not pregnant at the time of death. There is evidence of recent sexual activity but no indications that the sexual contact was forcible.

Endocrine

The thyroid gland is bilobed and non-nodular.

Both adrenal glands are grossly unremarkable.

Neurologic

Brain Weight 1305 grams

Page 2 of 3 B200805895 29 May 2008 13:41

Skin

Multiple scalp lacerations and searing of entire body.

Immunologic System

The lymph nodes are grossly unremarkable.

Musculoskeletal System

Cranial vault fractured.

SUMMARY AND INTERPRETATION

The decedent was a 24-year-old white woman who was shot and received extensive third degree burns postmortem. Due to the violent nature of death, Dr. Tom Reynolds, Leon County Medical Examiner, assumed jurisdiction of the body and authorized autopsy.

CERTIFICATION

Cause of Death

Gunshot wound to the head

MANNER OF DEATH

Homicide

The facts stated herein are correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Digitally signed by

Denise M. Johnson MD 29 May 2008 13:13

Page 3 of 3 B200805895 29 May 2008 13:41

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04. Excerpt from Earl Bishop’s Prison Journal

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?
08-27-08:
 
We’ve got to attend these sessions in here.
 
That’s why I’m writing, because they’re making me. You’remaking me.
 
It’s a journal I’m supposed to spill my deepest feelings into, that’s what they told me, the doc and the warden. Then they turned around and told me I lost my right to privacy the day the judge slammed her gavel down in my face and moved on to the next case.
 
So I’ve been sitting in this cell for the past couple days trying to get this straight in my head.
 
Basically, the idea is that they—you—want me to write about all the shit I’d have a hard time talking about with anybody—even Wayne, who’s like my brother—so that you, somebody I do notknow and who definitely does nothave my best interests at heart, can read it and use it against me.
 
You really must think it’s a bunch of fucking retards in here, don’t you?
 
Like we’re here because we’re all a few cards short of a full deck, that’s what you think.
 
Like we had no choice but to get locked up, because it was the only thing we knew how to do. That’s why you got us going to these stupid support groups, because you think we’re all a bunch of degenerates, dumb enough to fall for the bullshit.
 
I’ll tell you something though—some people, people like me, they do things for a reason. And not stupid fucking reasons either. Sometimes, when there’s a plan, everybody in a position of authority blinds themselves to the details until it’s too late. You all are no different. Wouldn’t know a true criminal if they slapped you in the mouth.
 
No, instead of looking into how you run things, you’ve got support groups. Fucking prison support groups.
 
You know, it’s my feeling that movies represent life a lot. So I like to look at the situations I find myself in and relate them to movies I’ve seen, because a lot of times I can tell what’s going to happen next based on what goes on in the film. It’s eerie how accurate it is sometimes.
 
But I’ll tell you, the only time I’ve ever seen anything like this shit is in that one with Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, the one where Owen is blackmailed for all his money after Aniston gets “raped.” Derailed it’s called. Never heard of support groups in prison until I seen this shit.
 
Then I get in here and find out they’re the real deal. And the dude in the movie who went to the groups, he didn’t fare very well in the end. And I’m guessing that’s where you got us headed in here too. But it won’t be like that for me because I’ve seen it, seen a lot more than you know. I can see what’s coming. I’m smarter than you, more experienced.
 
Be best if you remember that.
 

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03. Interview with Wayne “Classic” Price: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Wayne Price is a secondary witness to the events concerning Anthony Stephens, and the primary source for information on Earl Bishop, Mr. Price’s cousin suspected of involvement in Anthony’s disappearance. With the self-proclaimed nickname “Classic,” Mr. Price is a character worth analyzing in his own right. Presently, Mr. Price sits in a hotel room in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, wearing baggy jeans, a Patrick Ewing New York Knicks jersey and Timberland boots. He is in a perpetually agitated state, tapping his fingers on the table, scratching his arm incessantly, and repeatedly picking up his glass of water then placing it back without drinking any of it.

11 July 2011

– You a cop, bruh?

– You know you gotta tell me if you a cop, right?

– Sound like a cop to me, son. Fuck you askin’ me my name and shit like you ain’t already got it right there on that paper? You called me, bruh.

– I don’t give a damn. If you a cop, it don’t matter how much bread you talkin’ ’bout. I ain’t sayin’ shit.

– Fuck. Whatever. Name’s Classic Price. Reppin’ Marcy, born and raised, but I stay out in Queens now and I got mad shit on my plate back home. Business propositions and ventures and shit, know what I’m sayin’? Time’s money, bruh. So get this shit rollin’.

Used to know Earl? What you mean used to know? Why you talkin’ ‘bout Earl like he dead, bruh?

– So what you sayin’ is, ‘cause he ain’t been ‘round here in a minute mean the nigga’s dead?

– Get your shit straight. When’s the last time you talked to yo fam? Bet you ain’t talked to ‘em in a minute, huh? You look like that type, one a them uptight muhfuckas, think you better than everybody, ain’t talked to yo moms, pops, nobody in yo fam, since—how long now?

– That long, huh? So I guess they dead then, right?

– You ain’t talked to ‘em in a minute, so they gotta be dead, right?

– Ain’t that the same shit you sayin’ ‘bout Earl?

– Look, bruh, I ain’t got but two people left in my bloodline: Earl and my mom’s. Earl could be sittin’ in a room down south right now just chillin’, watchin’ movies and shit, tryna live his gotdamn life, and you out here killin’ him off before he ready. That’s fam, son. Don’t fuck with my fam. I ain’t the typa nigga to let some shit like that slide.

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02. Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Catherine D’Amico is the initial witness to the events surrounding Anthony Stephens’ death. Ms. D’Amico is an attractive young woman, though it’s obvious the stress of this situation has left her fairly dilapidated. She sits in a local coffee shop in Boca Raton, Florida wearing a pair of tattered jeans and a pink tank top; there are bags beneath her eyes and her shoulders are slouched. Caught up in her thoughts, Ms. D’Amico gazes out the window for long periods of time in between speaking.

24 June 2011

– It’s okay. I’m okay.

– Why am I speaking to you?

– I have no clue. Because you asked. And nobody else has.

– Who told you that?

– Whatever, I don’t care. You want to know about Les, I can tell you about Les.

– Tony. That’s what I said, Tony.

– Les? Les was just…some guy.

– Yeah, ok. I guess. I understand the confusion, actually. Must seem pretty strange from the outside. Strange enough from the inside.

– Did I know Tony well? [Ms. D’Amico laughs long and hard, then wipes her eyes and gives a pained smile] I’m sorry, it’s just—know him well? I didn’t know Tony at all.

– If you asked me if Tony and I talked sometimes, the answer would be yes. Or if you asked if we had sex often, or if I used to wish we could someday, maybe, possibly be in the type of long-term relationship that possessed some inkling of stability, then the answer to both would be yes. If you asked me if Tony was the father of my son, or if I was in love with him when he died, then yes, but know him? [Ms. D’Amico chuckles again] Impossible.

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01. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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WhoIsAnthonyStephens.com

September 29 2002

Morning: 3 out of 10

Afternoon: 3 out of 10

Night: 5 out of 10

Took both my pills this morning, Doc. As instructed.

Pretty average day, except I had that dream about my parents again.

Same shit as last time: me walking in the woods, come to a clearing with a small lake in the middle and my parents are there, standing across the lake from each other, just hollering.

Like the third time I had it too, and every time it’s the same: they’re yelling the way they used to—like they want to fucking murder each other—and I’m watching them do it, happy just to see them within speaking distance.

Same details: my dad’s face was blurry, my mom was wearing that weird ass piss-yellow spring dress I’ve never seen in real life before with small burn holes in it from her cigarettes, and they both looked like zombies.

…actually, they were zombies. Full-fledged undead. Tattered skin, sunken, hollow eyes, slack facial muscles—all the same shit from the movies. My dad was toothless last night, that was different I guess. Can’t tell if that’s a move in the right or wrong direction, though. It made him look like he was grinning every time he opened his mouth. Pretty creepy with the rest of his face being just a big blur. And he kept gnashing his lips together at my mom, like he wanted to gum her to death or something.

Ma wasn’t doing much different on her side of the lake. She just kept flicking my dad off and screaming incoherent shit over and over again. Bunch of gibberish they both kept spitting out in a steady stream. My mom’s voice had this loud, shrill ring to it that was ear-splitting even from where I stood watching, which was a pretty good distance away. Every once in a while she’d spit at the ground and mutter something, and every time she did I could smell her breath like she was right next to me. It smelled like rotten fish, like a sick cat with its mouth open, and her voice sounded like her tongue decayed and fell out of her mouth, kind of like when a deaf person tries to talk. If the deaf person was also walking dead.

Anyways, in the dream they’re both doing the screaming bit for a while until they notice me standing where I’m at, then they turn and start doing that creepy-slow-zombie-walk towards me, and even though they’re coming at like 1/8th a mile an hour, I can’t move. It’s like I’m stuck in place forever before they reach me grab my arms and bare their teeth/gums and then I wake up.

That’s the dream, and last night was the third time I’ve had it this week.

But that’s not even the kicker. When I opened my eyes it was ten AM and I was drenched in sweat and scared as shit and, yeah, that sucked. But the real b.s. is—just like the last two times—I had the same fucked-up, twisted reaction to it all. Can’t explain it, why it happens like that.

You see, I’m fine in the dream, fine when they’re yelling, fine when they grab me, fine when I first wake up and I’m still kind of in the dream world, a little scared but still feeling kind of like I’ve got something. But then, when things get clearer and I look around my room and remember where I am and who I am and what the world’s really like, I just curl up into a ball and slip into this semi-coma for a couple of hours.

And I mean a fucking coma; I don’t even know I’m out until the sun slips through this crack in my blinds and hits me in the eyes and I finally stir, look over at my clock and see it’s two in the afternoon and I can’t remember what I did for the past four hours.

That’s what I’m dealing with here, Doc. A bunch of bullshit.

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