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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129. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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March 28, 2008,

Was in the book store today and saw this little kid whose dad was trying to veer him towards the book section, but all the boy wanted was to look at the comics. I laughed when I saw the father pleading and he looked at me and laughed too, rolling his eyes. As if to say, “what can you do?”

But I wasn’t laughing at the kid’s resistance so much as I was laughing at his dad’s condescension.

I wanted to walk up to him and tell him he could keep that shit up if he wanted, but it would never work out in his favor.

You can’t control people, no matter what you do. It’s in humanity’s nature to rebel.

That dad wants his kid to read more because his son wants the comics, and that kid wants the comics more because his dad wants him to read books. It’s unavoidable, that conflict. Which is kind of ironic when you think about it because, if we’re all rebels, then doesn’t that mean that rebels, by their very definition, don’t actually exist?

It’s these things that fuel me nowadays; for the first time in my life the things that go on in my head actually comfort me, give me strength to face the world as it is and not as this ideal image that I used to make it into.

I think things may be leveling out for me finally, or starting to at least. Me, my life, this med school thing. I’m getting the hang of it all. Starting my Brain and Behavior courses this summer, teaching some undergrad electives too on this assistantship they gave me. Hopefully with that I can keep these student loans from getting even more retardedly high than they already are, so maybe I can actually live my life for me for once as opposed to living it for somebody else.

As far as Louise, yeah she’s still around. I don’t know what’s going on with her. She says she’s distant sometimes because of school, that she doesn’t want any set-in-stone commitments until we’re both finished with our residencies and all that. She says there’s nobody else, even though she still disappears for days on end and acts like nothing’s weird when she just pops back up again.

I can’t tell if I believe her or not. I don’t know if I care enough to try. Part of me just wants to end it, to prove to myself that it doesn’t matter.

But, on the same note, going back to being alone doesn’t even really seem like an option.

I don’t know, maybe I should. I don’t need this. What I need to do is remember where I came from, where I’m going, and have faith in myself that it’ll all be alright if I just don’t let up.

Things always end up alright in the long run, if you wait long enough.

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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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124. Interview with Dr. Timothy Reynolds

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who is anthony stephens?

Dr. Tim Reynolds works for the Leon County Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and performed the autopsy on the John and Jane Doe recovered in the abandoned Old Bainbridge home allegedly burned down by Earl Bishop on May 11, 2008

6 July 2011

– You’re not going to turn this into a smear campaign, are you?

– Well, it’s just that—If you want me to be realistic, I can tell you. I mean, I know what most people’d think if they heard me say this stuff, but a man in my position doesn’t get a lot of social time.

– People don’t really smile and look envious when I tell them what I do. They hear the Doctor at the beginning of my name and think I’m out here doing heart transplants and brain surgeries and saving lives. Then I tell them, I don’t do lives [Dr. Reynolds chuckles then quickly frowns] Usually takes them a minute to get it.

– I have to find ways to entertain myself.

– Yeah, I remember the Doe’s. Was a little running joke between me and Cleyland for a while.

– Not with the John, he was a definite homicide.

– The fire had nothing to do with it. He’d been beaten beyond recognition before a flame even touched him.

– I mean, serious assault. It takes a lot to crack the human skull.

– The girl, though. Jane Doe. [Dr. Reynolds sighs and smiles] She was flawless.

– Could’ve been suicide, I’m guessing hanging, strangulation, since her trachea was smashed. Only type of fatalistic damage we could find, aside from the fire. Or whoever did Mr. Doe could’ve overpowered Jane, suffocated her.

– Yeah, the running joke was if either of us could tell what she looked like when she was alive. Before she got Freddy Krueger’d.

– Judging by her overall height, the texture of the bits of hair left on her scalp, the remainder of fat on her breasts and thighs, the proportion of her facial bone structure and health of her bones in general—I’d say she was pretty hot.

– A definite eight, if not a nine or ten.

– Cleyland though, he thought she was average, like a six or seven.

– If they ever find out who she was, I want to see a picture. I’ve got twenty bucks on that one.

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123. Interview with James Bennett: Part 4

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5 July 2011

– My opinion on the case never changed, even after I saw everything unfold in the weeks before, during, and after the trial.

– It’s becauseof how everything unfolded actually, why my mind just wouldn’t let it go.

– Bishop was flaky, the whole time. He lied about not being the one to set fire to that place, and he lied about not knowing the bodies were there, about not knowing where his accomplice went too.

– He knew. He knew all of it. I couldn’t prove it, but I knew it.

– I was pissed when the verdict came back and all they got him on was the arson count. They’d bought into Silverstein’s bullshit, hook, line, sinker. I mean, some officers’d say it wasn’t a total loss, still a conviction. Especially as far as I was concerned since I wasn’t even on the damn case anymore. Was barely even back to being an officer, on probation and mandatory AA at that point.

– Case wasn’t closed to me though. More like an open book turned over on its pages so that nobody can see the words.

– I always had this biting feeling in my stomach when I saw Bishop, at the precinct, in the courtroom. Something was wrong with him. Even if he didn’t do what I think he did—which he did—something was still very wrong with him.

– You could feel it just by looking at him, just staring at his face you could see it in the way his eyes were always shifting around and his lip twitched all the time and he just sort of watched everybody without saying anything, like one of those guys in World Poker Tournaments, right before they drop a straight flush on your ass.

– Like a wolf. Yeah, a fucking wolf.

– I’ll never believe that Bishop had nothing to do with those bodies. Those investigators for the prosecution, they did a shit job on his case. If I’d been allowed to stick with it, Bishop’d still be locked up. Or executed, first degree charges.

– Because [Detective Bennett pauses, then looks around and sighs.] Fuck it. Chief can’t do anything about it anymore anyways, was so long ago.

– Few days before the trial’s about to start, I did a little extra investigating.

– For my own peace of mind. Nothing that would ever hold up since I wasn’t on the case, and I probably would’ve been fired back then if the chief found out about any of it, considering the terms of my probation and that fucking restraining order and—whatever. I’d never work another precinct again if they found out, but it wasn’t anything too serious so I figured I could get away with it.

– I just took a peek in Bishop’s apartment, trying to find anything I could before somebody came and cleaned the place out. It had always irked me that I never got a chance to search Bishop’s place myself, so I decided to just take the liberty.

– It was my case. Mine. Bastard Silverstein took it from me. I just wanted to see what I could have done, just to know.

– There was an eviction notice on Bishop’s door when I got there. Thirty days, everything was getting trashed. Notice had been up there for three weeks already. Police tape’s gone and everything so I head down to the front desk, flash my badge and get a key. Tell them it’s some last minute investigative stuff.

– When I got in, I admit, I took out some frustration. Ruffled up some drawers, threw a few clothes around, ripped a poster off the wall. It felt good. Cathartic. When I was done, I looked through some boxes I found in the back of Bishop’s closet and there’s this picture of him and this girl, hugging and smiling. Cute girl, his age, dark-hair. Italian looking. Picture’s dated about six months before the day I arrested him.

– Bishop and this girl, their picture looked like the ones they stick in frames when you just buy them, to show you how nice the frame could look. So, I searched some more, trying to find the origin of this mystery girl.

– They already checked Bishop’s lease, wasn’t anybody on it but him. Doesn’t mean nobody else was staying there regularly though, but he said there wasn’t and nobody came forward during the investigation to say anything otherwise.

– Nobody seemed to know anything about this Bishop kid, actually. Like he was a ghost recently appeared or something. Had a job but he’d been fired from that, and when detectives spoke to his old boss, all he told them was Bishop kept to himself.

– Anyways, I went in the bathroom and there’s nothing but an old toothbrush and a couple of cologne bottles and some shaving cream. But under the cabinet, way in the back behind the shampoo and body wash bottles and the toilet paper and stuff, there’s a box of Maxi pads. You get me?

– So now we got him all chummy with a girl in a picture and we got period pads in his bathroom. Something ain’t right. So I kept looking, finding nothing, finding nothing, and when I’m finally thinking it’s a dead end, I spot it.

– In the living room, next to the couch, a basket filled with magazines. Men’s Health, Maxim, a couple issues of Time. And hidden in the middle of the stack, two issues of Cosmo. Subscription issues, address label and everything.

– Now, you tell me, why’s Bishop got a subscription to Cosmo?

– Because he doesn’t. Address is for his apartment, but the name on it says Louise Morezo.

– Yeah, I know, that’s what I said. I keep that name in my head, Louise Morezo. Get back to the precinct and it’s the only thing I’m thinking about. Louise Morezo. Louise. Morezo.

– Doesn’t sound familiar, but I figure if there’s anywhere I should look first, its records. I get nothing. Girl had one speeding ticket back in like 2006. Otherwise, clean. Check all the criminal databases, ‘cause I’m thinking this whole time that maybe I’ve got his accomplice, you get me?

– Like I said, didn’t matter at this point, but I’d already got myself started. Didn’t find anything though. So I’m sitting at my desk and it’s just nagging me. Won’t leave my mind. Louise Morezo. Could still be the accomplice, just doesn’t have a record, which is completely likely since Bishop didn’t have a record before this either.

– But then I get to thinking, on a whim, what if Morezo wasn’t in on it all? I think about how they’d said one of those bodies they took from the house Bishop burned down was a female. What if Morezo wasn’t an accomplice, but a victim?

– So I check missing person’s, and I’m excited because I’m almost sure I’m going to find her. Something like that, chief’ll overlook me going to Bishop’s apartment if I find something that big. But the search comes back negative. Nobody’s reported her.

– Still wasn’t convinced, but nothing I could do about it. I tried too. Went so far as to look if she had a Facebook page. Turned out she did, at one point. Deactivated it three days before Bishop set that fire though. Convenient, huh?

– All I needed really. Like I said, as far as I was concerned, I was off the case. I wanted to go to the Chief bad, tell him what I’d found, bypass the fake justice that was being served and give a little more support to the charges this prick had on him. And I was even more pissed because it had taken me all of two hours to figure this shit out, but the D.A. had no clue.

– I knew it wouldn’t matter if I did tell the Chief, though. And I wasn’t about to risk my job and the little credibility I still had just so I could point my finger in someone’s face and possibly say I told you so. [Detective Bennett cringes] God, you don’t know how bad I wanted to, though.

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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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121. Interview with Robert “Bob” Hill: Part 3

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6 July 2011; 20:06:

– Well, like I said, I ain’t never really been quick on the draw, but I got him that night.

– Don’t like to admit it, but it was luck got me out there. Hadn’t been for me goin’ out ta get my toolbox out my truck, I’da never seen Bishop right over there [Mr. Hill points out the window towards the site of the original fire] where the Dennis’s used to live when I was a kid.

– Dennis’s packed up and made out to Atlanta ’bout, oh, four, five years ago. So the place been empty for a while there while they was tryin’ to get a buyer, just settin’ there fallin’ apart.

– Can’t show you what it looked like after Bishop done what he did. Realtors came through couple months after it happened and bought up the land, built another house in its place. But Bishop was there alright, same Ford pickup as mine, same year, everything. I remember ‘cause mine’s a ‘91, and I don’t see many a man drivin’ them ‘round no more.

– I keep mine up in good condition though, couple a things on the side at work to keep it runnin’ clean enough. They’s mighty fine vehicles, I’ll tell you. Buy American, more reliable.

– Uh huh, I seen Bishop’s truck and thought I hadn’t seen one ‘sides mine in some time, and his was beat up to all hell. I’m bettin’ that thing’s towin’ capacity was shot, probably’d break down if you threw a brick in the cabin by the looks of it. Could hear the engine from way over where I was standin’, soundin’ like it was yellin’ for mercy. Listenin’ to that thing—give it a rough diagnostic check, just listenin’ to the sounds—I’m guessin’ it needed a rotor belt, some tran work, at least six thousand past the last oil change.

– Yeah huh, I’m watchin’ that car and I catch sight a Bishop just settin’ there, starin’ at the Dennis’s old house. Not doin’ nothin’, still as a soldier durin’ the national anthem.  I mean real still too, not shufflin’ ‘round on his feet like these kids do nowadays, like they’s all coked up or gotta piss or just plain nervous or somethin’. He was still as a preacher durin’ prayer, arms at his side, just starin’ up at the house. Weren’t nobody ’round him neither, just him and that damn truck and whoever was in it.

– I mean, I’m just guessin’ was somebody there. Bishop kid said there weren’t, but he looked mighty unsure when they was askin’ him.

– I believed him ‘bout the bodies, I don’t think he had nothin’ ta do with that. They was already in there, probably some drug deal gone bad and person who kilt ‘em thought it’d be a safe bet ta dump the bodies at the Dennis’s old house.

– Bishop, he just a little college young’n, a roughneck. I saw his face when they was tryin’ him, boy was scared outta his mind. He couldn’t a murdered nobody. It was dark, no electricity in that house, boy coulda gone in and set fire to the place and woulda never seen or heard a thang ‘bout no dead bodies ‘til the place was up already. Somebody else killed them people, I’ll give him that. But I ain’t believe him when he said he was alone. I can’t be hundred percent on it or not, but considerin’ how he was actin’ in front a that house, I’m pretty damn sure there was somebody with him. ‘Cause he’d be downright crazy if there weren’t.

– Well, I kept watchin’ and waitin’ and Bishop stood there for a long time. So I took a couple a steps off my property in his direction and that’s when I see that he ain’t as still as I figured.

– My eyes ain’t what they used to be so I couldn’t see no specifics at first, but I get a few feet closer still and see he’s a young’n, twenty-three, twenty-four maybe. And there’s a sound driftin’ over from where he’s at and I get a little closer and he’s talkin’.

– That’s why I say there had to’ve been somebody in that truck, ‘cause he wasn’t talkin’ like no crazy person. Was talkin’ loud, havin’ a conversation, like he was yellin’ at somebody, and he kept lookin’ back at the car, so’s I believe he had somebody with him.

– Was about to go over and ask what they was doin’, but the roof a the Dennis’s old house caved-in right then and flames shot out the top like it was Fourth of July.

– I ain’t never seen nobody move as fast as that boy did right then. I was still lookin’ at the house—caught in one hell a surprise—when he hopped in the passenger side a the truck like lightnin’ was on his ass.

– Tires peeled off and, like I said, my eyes ain’t what they used to be, but they’s decent enough. I couldn’t see inside the truck, but I caught the license plate. Ran in and called Crimestoppers and gave ‘em what I know and they caught that fella.

– Hope it’s a lesson to him, too. Hope it’s a lesson to all of ‘em, young or old. Anybody else wanna come ‘round settin’ fire to people’s homes. Name’s Bob Hill, and I will get your ass locked up.

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120. Interview with Jesus Hernandez: Part 3

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12 July 2011

– I didn’t think too much about Bishop after he split.

– Every month or so I’d get an email from my supervisor telling me to update a bunch of my files and his would be one of them, so I’d pull up his folder and put a note that the warrant’s still out for his arrest.

– While I’m in there though, occasionally I’ll look through his credentials, the degree and the résumé and all that and just wonder how somebody—how a minority in today’s America—could have come so far from the hood he grew up in and then turn around and fall right back into that lifestyle, all in like a split second.

– It makes me hate some things about this society when I see these guys. They’re all brainwashed by the entertainment industry.

– Pisses me off, the general attitude. Like how hip hop stars and gang members and anybody else who’s been raised in the hood love to call the ghetto a trap.

– I remember this parolee a couple years back, actually. Armed robbery felon. He comes in and sits right where you are and I asked him if he’d learned anything from his time in prison, and he fed me the same cock-and-bull story they all do.

– They all say yeah, they learned, but their eyes and the tone of their voice say they haven’t gotten shit from their time in prison but an amplified attitude problem.

– So I ask the armed robbery felon why he did what he did, and he tells me because he needed to survive.

– Survive what, I asked. The streets, he said.

– Which street, I asked. Myrtle ave? Lexington? 151st? Fucking Queensbridge?

– He got all testy with that. Says, “it’s every street when you in the hood, son.” Love to call people their quote unquote son.

– So I asked him why he didn’t just leave then. And he gave me this dead cold stare. Said, “listen, son, they don’t call it the trap for no reason.”

– I wanted to laugh at him but his file said he had violent tendencies and I don’t like scenes in my office. If he snaps, I gotta call security, deal with paperwork, arrests, missing my next appointment and all that. Too much of a hassle.

– But I wanted to call him on his bullshit. I wanted to point out to him that the ghetto, the place he’s calling a “trap,” is a neighborhood like any other. No difference between Manhattan or Queens or Decatur or fucking Beverly Hills. I wanted to point out to him that I was born and raised in Marcy Projects, came from there to where I’m at now. And sure I’m not a senator or a movie star, but I’m living in a pretty decent house in a pretty decent neighborhood in Jersey now. Crime free and comfortable.

– I wanted to point out to him that my father, he escaped both the Dominican Republic and Trujillo—El Jefe himself—at the age of ten. You want to talk about a trap, brother. [Mr. Hernandez chuckles contemptuously]

– I wanted to show this little hoodrat nimrod the scar below my rib cage, [Mr. Hernandez erratically stands and pulls his shirt up and there is a half-inch wide gunshot wound on his right flank] from my own delinquent days, and the police badge with my late father’s name on it that I keep in my desk at home, to remind me that he died in the line of duty, trying to clean up the same traps these little bastards help keep dirty.

– The ghetto is what you make it, and people who use it as an excuse to choose to trap themselves in a comfortable, lazy situation are nothing but cowards to me.

– People like Bishop though, people who came out and then willfully go back, well—they’re another deal. Worse off, you ask me. Worthless, period.

– Because I don’t acknowledge that high a level of ignorance. I say good riddance. One less brother like that in New York is a good thing.

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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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118. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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November 23 2007,

And here it starts again.

Tried to avoid this crap for all my undergrad, and succeeded for the most part. I was hoping I’d at least get through med school before the drama returned.

Dr. Silver always told me all my social issues stem from my outlook on people and personal relationships. Romantic relationships, parent relationships, any relationship, all that shit is what gets me all worked up. I can’t stand to be alone for too long but I can’t be around people for an extended period of time or I lose my sense of identity, start forgetting who I am and letting other people influence me, which always ends bad.

I feel like I’ve been keeping that in mind and developing so much as a person these last couple of years, and until now I’ve been under the impression that my steady improvement was a result of me just staying the fuck away from all types of relationships. Just stick to myself and I’ll be alright, that’s what’s worked out for me pretty well so far. I’m not a degenerate-drugged-out-alcoholic-college-dropout anymore. I’m a future psychiatrist.

You want to talk about a fucking one-eighty? And all because I kept my focus on what I wanted, what I needed. Until now.

Now, once again, I feel myself falling right back into the same fucking trap with this Louise chick. Granted, I met her in my Anatomy lab this semester, so it’s not like she’s a deadbeat. And she’s my lab partner, she’s on the pediatrics track, beautiful, smart, funny, relatable, so for all intensive purposes it’s perfectly understandable that I’d develop feelings for the chick, right? And she’s from Miami, went to FIU, actually, before coming up here. Even more of a fucking coincidence, huh?

And here’s the clincher: she likes me.

Made it pretty obvious she likes me too. Giggles at everything I say, touches me a lot while she’s talking, makes it a point to hang out with me after class.

So, what’s the problem then, right?

That’s the spiel I’ve been giving myself all semester. Let your guard down, Tony. Dr. Silver said you’d be fine, Tony. You can’t be alone forever, Tony.

So finally, like a month ago, I made up my mind to make a move, during our study session at the library. Decided I’d give it a shot and ask her out to dinner sometime, so I did. And she said yes. And basically we’ve been dating for a couple of weeks now, and when I’m with her I’m happy. Insanely happy. But when I’m not with her, it’s like there’s this voice in my head. That same dude that I haven’t heard from since I first got to Tallahassee. He keeps telling me things, and I can’t help feeling like Louise is hiding something from me, like there’s somebody else or something. Like the other day I called and she just hung up on me in the middle of us talking, called me back a minute later and made up some bullshit excuse about losing service. She was on campus though. I’ve never lost cell service on campus.

Might be over-thinking things I know. But it’s this trust thing, man. I’m supposed to buy into it again, according to Doc Silver, if I ever want to try and become a functioning citizen again.

And I just don’t know, man. I don’t know.

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117. Interview with William Fletcher: Part 4

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30 August 2011

– You’ve got to understand, I’d just resigned like five minutes prior. And now I’m having doubts about this one last case. It was an aggravation.

– I did a quick search through the stuff we got in evidence that we took from Palmer’s place after the fire was put out.  Only a few things really, the biggest of which was a painting of some girl, found it in the bathtub with a curtain draped over it, like he’d been trying to save it from the fire.

– In the box, there’s two pill bottles, which I’m glad to see because it means there’s nothing too suspicious, though the name’s been scratched off the label. Odd, but no biggie.

– I was about to leave when I noticed Palmer’s half burnt wallet in there too. Rifle through it and there’s nothing much. No ID of any sort. No credit cards, no pictures, nothing but ten bucks cash, couple of coupons and business cards. So I look through the business cards and find, tucked in the middle of the small stack, one of those little emergency contact cards that come with wallets when you buy them.

– There’s two numbers on the card, one has a Boca area code with the name Cathy next to it. I assume that’s my belligerent little visitor from earlier.

– The other number though, it has a New York area code with Classic written next to it. So I dial the number out of curiosity. Phone’s ringing, ringing, ringing. I’m thinking nobody’s going to answer and then someone does, a guy’s voice.

– I ask him if this is Classic and he says who’s asking—New Yorkers, always got a attitude—so I pull the detective card on him and ask if he knows who Les Palmer is. The guy says he’s never heard of him and hangs up.

– My family and I left Boca a week later. To my credit, I told the chief he might want to put somebody else on the Palmer case to investigate a little more. Don’t know if he ever did, never really gave him a credible reason for it, just a gut feeling.

– Checked the Post a few weeks later and wasn’t nothing on it, so I’m guessing it never was reopened. County probably filed Palmer same way we all get filed away at some point.

– I don’t worry myself about it too much. I love being back up here, wouldn’t want to taint that with too much past.

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116. Interview with Martin Schumacher

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who is anthony stephens?

Martin Schumacher is a student at Florida State University with one year left in his “seven-year plan,” which he explains as taking seven years to complete a bachelor’s degree (typically completed in four) for various, occasionally nefarious reasons. Mr. Schumacher was a neighbor of Anthony Stephens during his time in medical school, and conducts his interview outside of the same apartment, next door to where this tale began. Mr. Schumacher wears a tank top and FSU basketball shorts and smokes a cigarette, looking as if he just got out of bed.

7 July 2011

– Yeah, I remember Tony. He stayed right over there my sophomore year, in the one-ones [Mr. Schumacher points at Anthony’s former apartment].

– Pretty cool dude, I guess. Me and Steve—my old roommate, he graduated already—we used to sit and chill sometimes outside and smoke a little, drink a little. Tony’d join us a few times or whatever. Really chill dude. Med student, right?

– Yeah, he was cool. Whatever happened to him?

– Really? Dude. That sucks.

– Damn, that sucks for real, bro. He seemed like a righteous dude. Me and Steve thought he was pretty cool actually. Used to hang out on the weekends until he met that chick. [Mr. Schumacher smiles and winks] You know how that goes.

– Only time I saw him after that was when she was over and he’d come outside to let her in.

– Anything weird? [Mr. Schumacher thinks for a moment] Actually, yeah, bro.

– I mean, it wasn’t like totally fishy or anything. But there was this dude hanging out over there at one point. Never seen him before, figured it was one of Tony’s boys. He would, like, hover around the place outside sometimes, see him walking in and out of the apartment.

– This one night, a couple weeks after I first saw him chilling there, I came outside to smoke a cig and that same dude’s sitting outside Tony’s apartment. So I get a good look at him. Looked a lot like Tony actually. Little darker. He was sitting on a chair right outside the door reading this big black book. And crying.

– I swear it. Dude was just sitting there reading and crying. Not like, flat-out bawling or nothing, but crying. You could see it in the streetlight shining down on the dude’s head, he had tears like, all over his cheeks.

– Say something to him? Bro. Come on.

– You don’t mess with a dude when he’s crying. Embarrass him and shit? That’s like, man code, bro, you know?

– Dude’s liable to punch you in the face you come up to him when he’s crying.

– I just went inside. Never saw him again after that though. [Mr. Schumacher gets thoughtful] Come to think of it, never saw Tony again either.

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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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114. Interview with William Fletcher: Part 3

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30 August 2011

– You’d think that would’ve been the end of it, too, but no. Palmer case just wouldn’t leave me alone.

– I go home after county picks up the body and Palmer’s gun’s sent up to forensics and I file my paperwork and bag all his possessions and stick it all in evidence and I’m thinking the whole thing’s over with. Get in bed next to my wife at little past two a.m., glad to be done with it all, wishing I could really be done with it all. The whole damn city. But I wake up in decent spirits regardless and come into work the next morning, and that’s when they tell me I got a girl in my office, bawling her eyes out.

– I walk in and she’s sitting right across from my desk, eyes black with mascara. Starts babbling as soon as she sees me, before I can even get a word in. Tried to pacify her, told her to lower her voice when she started yelling, but she just kept on with the bawling and babbling. Looking me dead in my face and sputtering about this and that, about being pregnant with Palmer’s baby and a whole lot of other stuff I couldn’t really understand.

– Wasn’t really surprised, you know? Palmer would be the type to leave a child behind. But then she spits out that Palmer didn’t kill himself so I say, ok. I’m game. He didn’t kill himself, you say? [Detective Fletcher shrugs then holds his hands out] Then who did?

– Long pause, then she gets all edgy and tells me she doesn’t know, she just knows he didn’t kill himself. Obvious she’s hiding something, gets me kind of curious. But I’m tired too, you know? At this point I’m just damn tired, and I’m not in the mood for games. By this time, I’ve already closed the book on the case. Turned in my paperwork the night before. I’m going to need something concrete to convince myself to pick it back up. And I didn’t want anything forcing me to do that, I’ll admit.

– So, even though I’m curious, I was glad to hear her not really saying nothing. Like I said, case was cut and dry. Found Palmer with the gun in his hand, motel owner and five other witnesses say they heard the shot seconds before they got to the room, and nobody witnessed anybody fleeing the scene. And at that point I’m betting when county gets back to me with the angle of the bullet, it’s ruled self-inflicted.

– If not, maybe this girl’s right, maybe I will have to do some poking around. Either way, that’s later on. Right then, though, she’s not saying nothing and I don’t want the headache she’s trying to bring me. So I ask her again, obligingly, how she knows Palmer didn’t kill himself. She says because he wouldn’t do something like that, and I smile because now I’m done with her and Palmer. I tell her thanks for her time, but I’m really busy. If she gets any evidence other than her own personal opinion, she’s welcome to come back.

– I’m about to escort her out when she starts with the yelling again. Had to get three officers in there just to restrain her and get her the hell out of my office.

– I don’t know. That was my breaking point right there. It was at that moment, while they’re dragging Palmer’s girl out, that I decided I—me and my family—we’re coming back here, to South Carolina.

– I didn’t know if things were different back home than they’d been when I started out, if things were just like how they were in Palm Beach. And they are, a little. Same type of brooding students around here now, not like how it used to be. But at least I feel comfortable here, can still see my old house and remember the days I rode my bike up to campus, around all the students. Happy students.

– Well, I called my wife after Palmer’s baby-mama left, told her the plan hoping not to get an earful. And she was all for it, quit her job that day. She’d been itching to get out herself, hated the place she was at, working as a receptionist. I went to the chief after I got off the phone with her and handed in my resignation, told him I’d be clearing out soon as he approved it, then I headed back to my office with him staring after me, dumbfounded.

– Yeah, right after that. Walked back in and—never stops—I’m in the middle of cleaning out my desk when I get a page from Van Heusen over at county. I pick up the phone and he’s telling me they’ve got autopsy results on the Palmer body for me, forensics on the gun too. Trajectory of the bullet indicates suicide, gun’s a black market .32 cal Smith and Wesson, filed down serial plate. Figures. Good news to me. But then Van Heusen throws in a comment about toxicology, says Palmer had a large amount of Zoloft in his intestines, which just adds to the suicide explanation. Zoloft’s got that effect on people. But, see, it’s also regulated, and I didn’t remember picking up any script bottles from Palmer’s place. Hated myself for even getting curious, but that coupled with the girl’s comments on him not having killed himself made me want to look into it just one more time.

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113. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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August 26 2007,

I can’t believe I actually made it here.

First day of med school tomorrow, my first day.

I mean, I’m in. Biochem and an anatomy lab tomorrow and genetics and embryology the day after.

I couldn’t even really believe it when I was signing up for the classes, thought I was going to get an error message on my comp, like “you have not been accepted to this program. Please exit the web browser and fuck off.”

But I’m in. Actually went all the way with this.

The first year med school advisor told me I won’t be into my psych track until my second year, so for right now I’m lumped in with all the future heart surgeons and gynecologists and whoever else, but it’s a pretty good atmosphere from what I can tell so far. Went to orientation the other day and everybody seems really friendly, like they’re just as excited to be here as I am. Going to be a lot of work but I can’t even really think about all that right now.

Still can’t really believe I’m here. I spent so long heading towards this, it’s weird to see it happening. It’s like I got used to never reaching my goals, and now that I’m here I don’t even know what to do with it.

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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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111. Interview with William Fletcher: Part 2

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30 August 2011

– But Les Palmer, he was a new breed. Still batshit crazy, of course. But he wasn’t exactly the same, considering he wasn’t in college when he snapped. But he was around that age. And he lived in a college town, probably hung out with college-going people. And still with the depression, the violence, the extravagant suicide.

– Walked into that motel room that night after the fire was put out, and it was a sad scene. We were lucky to get there in time to confine the flames to Palmer’s room and keep the whole damn building from burning down, so there was some salvageable evidence in there, technically speaking. But as far as he was concerned, Palmer, nothing.

– Son of a bitch soaked himself and the whole bed in gas before he set fire to the place. Boy was beyond recognition. And the room reeked; gas, shit, burnt skin, the works. Made your eyes water being within a hundred feet of the place. Worst smell I’ve ever come across to this day. And what was left of the room that the fire hadn’t destroyed looked like he’d run around blindfolded with a baseball bat before he pulled the gun on himself.

– Piles of scorched painting supplies on the floor, holes in the wall that looked like he’d put his fist through it a couple of times, burnt pieces of clothes scattered on the floor. Small stove in the corner had old dishes stacked and the closet was piled—just a lot of things no fire could have done on its own. Palmer trashed the place then kicked the bucket, way I see it.

– Motive? There wasn’t one. Didn’t need to be one. You hearing what I’m saying?

– There’s no reason for anything these kids are doing nowadays, other than being stark, raving mad. Once the motel owner ID’d him and I found out about his little conniption at that art gallery on Antique, I knew what he’d done.

– Fellow officer—Walton, Officer Walton—showed up at the place a couple minutes after Palmer snapped on the crowd and ducked out the back door. Said he spoke to a couple of the guests and they basically told him Palmer was a lunatic.

– Cut and dry case when it came to me and the body. Way I saw it, all I needed was a name and a time of death, former of which I got from the motel owner—Ms. Bella, sweet old lady—latter of which I got once county got back with the autopsy.

– No, I don’t have sympathy for people who take the easy way out. I’d have at least given him credit if he did the gas thing then just sat there and took it, burned to death like that Buddhist monk back in the sixties. But even back then, he did it as a protest. Still stupid, but at least there’s some reason. A purpose. What Palmer did was ridiculous, overkill, and for what? Because he couldn’t handle the same life everybody else was handed?

– You’ve got to work your way out of your problems the old-fashioned way, perseverance. Anything else and you’re a coward, plain and simple.

– Chemical imbalance, my ass. I could tell Palmer’s life story almost the moment I walked in that room and saw his smoking body laid out on that bed, gun in hand, bullet hole in the wall. And like I said, when I heard about his little art gallery showing, I knew even more. Basic character profile: Mom and Dad not around enough, working class, probably divorced. Palmer himself’s dramatic in high school, acting out, getting in trouble, taking drugs and blaming everybody but himself for the trouble he’s getting himself into. Takes that mentality right out into the real world, never assimilates properly into society. Girlfriend issues. Money issues. Mental issues, self-medicated. Blah blah blah [Detective Fletcher shakes his head] Wouldn’t even have bothered with the paperwork if it wasn’t required. Case closed.

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110. Interview with Francine Bella

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who is anthony stephens?

Francine Bella is the manager at Palm Trails Motel, where Anthony Stephens lived during the year preceding his death. Ms. Bella is a portly, aged woman transplanted from Montgomery, Alabama, in possession of an extremely commanding aura which she uses to control the conversation for pretty much the entirety of the interview conducted in the main office of Palm Trails.

21 August 2011

– Hard to forget a boy like Palmer. Come up in here one day looking like somebody done dragged him through hell.

– No driver’s license, no car from what I could tell. Just walked on in to town on his own two feet in the dead a night, sweating and tired. Thought he was just another bum looking for some change ‘til he showed me some money and asked me, real polite, if he could set for a while, right where you setting. Asked if he could set a little ‘fore I gave him a room to stay. Depressing, watching that boy Palmer. Young man like that, obvious that things was troubling him bad.

– Don’t rightly know. Probably got hisself into drugs or legal problems or what have you. But he weren’t all put out, just needed a little support.

– You gotta help ‘em out in them situations. If you see they’s trying to help theyselves, you got a obligation to help ‘em.

– Cut him a little deal on the weekly for that room he had out back. If I’da known he was goin’ mess it up the way he did, I’da maybe thought twice about it. Maybe not. Can’t be too mad at him noways; barely heard a peep outta the boy otherwise. He was here for a long while before he kilt hisself. Wouldn’t a known it though; saw him all but once or twice throughout.

– Used to open up Saturday mornings and there’d be his envelope slipped through the mail slot, lying on that mat right over there [Mrs. Bella indicates the welcome mat near the front door] with a couple greasy twenties tucked in. Boy was punctual, I give him that. Never missed a weekly the whole time he was here. [Mrs. Bella shakes her head] Still don’t account for what he done to that room back there.

– Lawd, if Corey coulda seen it, his heart woulda kilt him all over again.[1] Can’t even much talk ‘bout it now. People ask me why’s the building out back look newer’n all the others and I tell ‘em there was a accident, and leave it at that. Don’t wanna harp on people’s good will when they’s just trying to live happily.

– But you still liable to go back there and get a whiff a cooked skin, catch sight a patch a grass that ain’t never growed back from getting burnt up.

– Reckon I found him that night. Had just finished clearing out the office—gots to check in ‘fore eleven you want a room ‘round here, I can’t be out  all hours a the night—and I was heading out to where I stay at in that building up front. I’m locking up the front door right there and I smelt the smoke right ‘fore I heard the shot loud as you’s hearing me right now. Came from the back a the complex, so’s I step over and people’s creeping out they rooms and I reach Palmer’s door and try to open it, but the knob’s hotter‘n July, smoke coming out from underneath. So I had to call over this fella from the room ‘cross the way and he come round and kicked the door in, but was too late by then. Could see through the flames, but he was already gone.

– Palmer right there, on the bed, burnt up with half his senses covering the wall behind him, fire eating him up like he done sacrificed hisself to Satan.

– Murder? Uh uh, no sir. I don’t believe that. Wasn’t no way nobody coulda got in and out that room time enough to set that mess up, less they went out the back window.

– Somebody woulda seen them run into the woods out there. No, I reckon Palmer aimed to kill hisself, and he made a mighty show outta it.

– You ever smelt cooked human meat? Worst thing I ever smelt or seen to this day. And I was there day Corey’s heart cut out, watched his face turn gray as dirty snow while he holding his chest. Thought I’d never see nothin’ that disturbin’ again. [Ms. Bella chuckles] Reckon Les Palmer proved me wrong.


[1] Mrs. Bella reveals later that Corey Bella, her late-husband, was the original owner of Palm Trails Motel. Mr. Bella died of a heart attack in September of 2005.

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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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108. Interview with William Fletcher: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Detective William Fletcher headed the very brief investigation into Anthony Stephens a.k.a. Les Palmer’s death. He has since left Boca Raton’s police department and returned to his hometown of Clemson, South Carolina. Detective Fletcher sits in his office at the Clemson police department with a cup of coffee in one hand, a donut in the other. Sporting a handlebar mustache and a belly that is just beginning to hang over his belt, Detective Fletcher sighs a lot and looks overall aggravated with revisiting this time in his life.

30 August 2011

– You know, I’d already been trying to get out of that city for a while by then, so I won’t put all the blame on Palmer. It’s hard though, to leave a situation like that unless you’ve got some motivation. Once you’ve got settled somewhere, to just uproot everything, it’s hard.

– I’m not as young as I used to be, and my kids were about to start high school when all this was going on. We had to really want to leave to do it, understand? That’s how me and my wife were thinking.

– Yeah, the Palmer case, though. Last case I worked on down there. [Detective Fletcher sips his coffee and shuffles in his seat] You see, I was born and raised here, Clemson.

– Things like Palmer didn’t happen when I was young, back in the eighties. Back then, you were his age, you did something with yourself. Went to college, joined the army, started a career in something, anything. It was either that or become a crack addict, but any which way you went you were fitting into a set category, understand?

– My parents wanted more than anything for me to go to college but they couldn’t afford it, and neither could I. As a kid, I used to envy the people walking around with their Clemson t-shirts on, the university just sitting pretty right there [Detective Fletcher points out the window at Clemson University in the distance] big and beautiful. Then around ‘89, when I began my career as an officer, my feelings turned from envy to pride. I was proud to live in a country with such a well-established tradition of educating its citizens. I was proud to live in a city with such a strong sense of educational value. And I thought things would be the same when I moved down to South Florida.

– At the time I was trying to get away from the cold winters, I was sick of them. Still am. And with FAU so close by in Boca, I figured I might be able to give my kids the same experiences I had coming up near Clemson, only with the beach nearby.

– But it’s nothing like that down there. Not like that anywhere anymore, not with this generation.

– Maybe it’s too easy to go to college now, maybe that’s what it is. Or maybe these kids’ve just got shit for brains. Whatever it is, they aren’t walking around representing their schools like they used to, fraternizing and sitting out on university lawns studying and getting to know each other the way people did when I was coming up.

– I mean, some of them do, but the majority are out there drunk and half naked, raping each other and doing drugs. They’re not walking around smiling and happy, conversing with each other. They’re sitting in their apartments depressed, plotting murder and suicide.

– It’s sad out there, man. I’ve watched it, seen things deteriorate since the early nineties. Sometime over the past twenty years or so, being a student in this country became more a detriment than an advantage. All of a sudden now, public education doesn’t spark that same sense of community, of prosperity. All of a sudden, you’ve got kids out there murdering other kids like it’s a warzone or something.

– Look at the stats [Detective Fletcher begins counting off on his fingers] 1992, Lindhurst High. Four dead. ‘93, East Carter High. Two dead. ‘95, Richland High. Two more. ‘96. Frontier Junior High. Three. ‘97, Bethel Regional High, Pearl High, Heath High. Seven total. Westside, Parker, and Thurston High Schools combined for eight in ‘98. And then there was Columbine, fifteen dead including teachers, students, and the gunmen themselves. And, you know, I saw where it was progressing, too.

– These were  nineties middle schoolers and high schoolers doing this stuff, their generation adopting this mentality. Young teens in the nineties, young adults in the 2000’s. Obviously the kids have to grow up, and obviously some of them are going to go to college.

– Wait a little while, I told my wife, and you’ll see. There’s gonna be the same crap happening on college campuses before long. And sure enough, I wake up one morning, turn on the news, and there’s this angry kid holding a gun and cursing up a storm. Bottom of the screen, thirty-three dead at Virginia Tech.

– I almost cried when I saw that. These kids’ve taken the world straight to the bottom of hell.

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107. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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March 24 2007,

Don’t know where the time went. Been so long since I wrote in here, I don’t even really remember why it used to help so much.

I was just lying in my bedroom right now and wishing I had something to organize my thoughts on and I remembered how good it always felt to write in here, set things down visually so I could look back over what I wrote.

See the larger picture, maybe that was the appeal. Sometimes it’s hard to figure it all out in your head.

So, it’s my last semester already. Graduating in two months, med school in fall. Things have changed so much. It seems like it all happened so fast.

I’m just getting used to living here and now I might be leaving soon and, really, where the hell did the time go?

I talked to Dr. Silver a few weeks ago and it was so weird, hearing his voice and remembering our sessions and…I just had to thank him for everything, for all his help. He sounded pleased, genuinely pleased, and overall exactly the same. Like I could still imagine him sitting in that chair and me sitting on “The Couch,” both of us going back and forth. Which makes it seem like it was just yesterday I was there, even though it’s been a year and a half.

Funny how time works. In one sense, a couple of years seem like a lifetime. In another context though, it’s like a drop in a bucket.

I mean, I just flip-flopped on my feelings like three times in as many sentences. Back to that bipolar psychobabble bullshit. I’ve been taking way too many cognitive theory courses.

What I’m trying to say is that one minute it seems like it was twenty years ago that I moved here and got all suicidal again—things have changed so much that I can’t remember what it was like to be that far gone. And yet, at the same time, when I think about it—really think about it—it feels like it was just last week I was lying on my shrink’s couch listening to him tell me why I’m so fucked up.

Basically, all of this has made me realize what the most unstable element in the universe is: time.

It’s the reason we’re all fucked up in the head. We try to slow down, take things in, figure out what just happened, what is happening, what’s going to happen, try so hard to make sense of it all. And while we’re doing all of that, time just keeps moving forward, shifting and changing and not really giving a shit about us or our analyses, knowing we have no choice but to stick around. Unless we’re willing to do something drastic.

In a way, time’s kind of like…a high maintenance chick or something. A really hot high maintenance chick, sitting at a bar with a couple of her other hot friends, if you can picture that.

They’re all sitting around laughing and you know they know that everybody’s looking at them. And they’re all there, Destiny, Trust, Faith, Love and, of course, Time, who’s sitting at the head of the table just basking in everybody’s attention.

On the surface, Time, she looks confident as shit, beautiful and secure and like nobody can fuck with her. But then you get close to her and get to know her and start realizing her entire demeanor can flip on you from one minute to the next.

Time’s a tricky bitch, that’s for real. The worst type of acid trip if you let her in your head. Spend the rest of your life not knowing what the fuck is real or not.

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106. Palm Beach Gazette Newspaper Clip

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March 13, 2011

Local Artist Commits Suicide After Debut Meltdown

-Cole Parry

A local art exhibition turned sour last night, resulting in the death of a headlining artist.

Held at Veicht Studios, “Into the Mind of Addiction” was set to be an exhibit of art by local legend Clive Nidel and newcomer Les Palmer, a man who’s paintings have created a lot of buzz throughout the local art community over the past few weeks.

However, the buzz created by the exhibition itself seemed to be too much for the inaugural artist himself.

Halfway through the evening, a wild-eyed Palmer entered the studio and took the stage, purportedly to introduce his work.

Instead, the crowd of over a hundred patrons were confronted by an incoherent, ranting maniac, with Palmer screaming profanities and accusations at seemingly anybody within pointing distance.

Soon after picking up the microphone though, Palmer abruptly stopped speaking and ran out the front door, hopped in a taxi and drove off.

Officer’s were later called to the scene of a fire at a Palm Trails Motel, where Palmer was found in his room with an empty gun in hand. An autopsy is under way, but authorities believe Palmer’s death was a suicide.

Felicia Veicht—owner of Veicht Studios—could not be reached for comment at this time.

Did you attend the exhibition? Give us your thoughts on Les Palmer’s meltdown. Add us on Facebook or email a comment to coleparry@palmbeachgazette.com

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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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103. Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 5

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25 June 2011

– The fiasco that ensued that night was, to put it bluntly, extremely good press. Therefore, I hold nothing against Mr. Palmer for his outburst.

– It could very well have gone bad though.

– The saying is that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in an industry such as mine, where most patrons consider themselves enthusiasts of a higher culture and therefore not bound to the tactics of persuasion meant for less…refined individuals, there are certain types of publicity that can be bothersome.

– But, apparently, when an up and coming artist has a meltdown at his very first showing, it makes people wonder. And wonderment is the highest boon in the art industry.

– Create wonder, and art sells.

– Most of the attendants stayed after Les’s little episode, and quite a few more people stopped by. And, in the end, every piece of Les’s portfolio sold.

– It was the greatest performance by a new artist I have ever seen, indeed maybe the best for any artist in recent history. The Palm Beach Gazette, described it as “riveting,” and “breathtaking.”

– I call it amazing. Purely amazing. I just wish that Mr. Palmer had stuck around to witness his own phenomenon.

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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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99. Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 4

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25 June 2011

– It’s silly, I know, the connection I felt all these different events had.

– I do not support mystical viewpoints, so ideas of premonition and such do not hold with me. But every time I saw this man with the jacket and hat, I felt this dim sense of sobriety, almost as if I had been drunk with happiness, with normalcy, and this man had been sent to bring me back to the grim reality of life.

– He reminded me of death, of sadness, of rejection, which reminded me of Les Palmer’s paintings and drawings.

– The man held the same shade of mental darkness as Les’s work, vivid yet still unreal. Eerie.

– No matter how much I tried to shake the feeling during that period, every time I saw Cathy I had the feeling that her and her talented boyfriend had some sort of connection with that man outside. I had this nagging feeling that everything was connected, my feelings of sudden depression around this man outside, with his dark aura and sunglasses and brown sports jacket, coupled with the ever-present baggy, sleepless look in Cathy’s eyes whenever she came to the gallery and the overly nice, simmering spirit that was her boyfriend when he made his rare appearances.

– All connected. And I didn’t like it. Not one bit.

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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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97. Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 3

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25 June 2011

– Fine for the most part. Catherine is an amazing woman, love to have around the gallery. Always so polite, and she genuinely adores the offerings. Honestly, she reminds me so much of myself at her age.

– But the moment she began running around with Les Palmer, I began having this inkling of a feeling—this little pinprick of a thought in my head—that there were things going on that were being kept from me. Things that could affect how I perceived my niece and Mr. Palmer and his beautiful art. And you know my policy on secrets.

– One particular incident comes to mind. About a week before the night of Les Palmer’s showing, I began to notice a peculiar occurrence. Every day, around noon, I’d glance outside the gallery and, standing across the street, right there [Ms. Veicht turns and nods towards the large window behind her desk, where tourists are walking by in scattered groups] would be a man just standing there. He wore sunglasses, very large sunglasses, and a hat, jeans and a jacket. Every time I saw him, he wore that same outit.

– At first he wasn’t a bit suspicious. We’re located in the center of a premier art district; the crowd is constant during the daytime. But most people glance in the many shop windows and keep moving. All except this man. After a while it became a bit more noticeable due to his static stance across the street and his ridiculous outfit. The entire getup stood out, not just his unusually large sunglasses. The oddest things about him, by far, were the jacket and cap. He wore the same brown sports jacket and New York Yankee’s cap everyday for the period of time that I saw him out there. An outfit such as that in ninety degree weather would make anybody quite conspicuous.

– No. No clue.

– Almost a week. After the third time I saw him, I began to wonder if he was maybe scoping out the gallery. As in, maybe he was planning a theft.

– So one day—the day before Les’s showing actually—I went outside to speak with him, or at least get a closer look at his face. I thought, hopefully, if I spoke to him I could scare him enough to get him off the thought of robbing my gallery.

– I was crossing the street, staring right at him, when a car passed in front of my view and then he was gone. Just disappeared. Never saw him again.

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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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95. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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January 11 2006,

One semester in and things have changed so much.

I feel kind of stupid now, looking back at my last entry, how I lost it last summer. How close I came to leaving all of this.

I love it here now; it was just so hard to adjust at first. Like the same part of me that wanted to leave Miami so bad didn’t realize exactly how much he’d be leaving behind. Everything I’d ever known was five hundred miles away and I don’t think I really comprehended that fact until I was sitting in my apartment alone in a city I’d never even visited before.

This past fall though, everything sort of fell into place. It was like something clicked a few weeks into the semester. I stopped being scared to leave my apartment anymore and I stopped shunning everybody who tried to talk to me. I love my classes and I’ve even got a couple of professors this semester who are kind of helping me out a little, more than I think they have to.

People aren’t so bad when you give them a chance, seriously.

It’s like I’m in a different world now, and I’m really feeling it. I thought I’d keep regretting moving up here, thought the feeling would never go away. But things seem more stable now that I’m actually into all this, into my major and making plans and…

I’ve come up with this theory: I feel like all that stuff I was doing before, last summer and the couple of years before that, all that negative shit, it was all a lash out.

Just like Dr. Silver said, I was bored. And I know people say that all the time, “I’m so bored, oh my god this sucks it’s so fucking boring” but they’re not really bored because they have stuff that they like to do in their free time. They just don’t like working, that’s what it is. They’ve got their hobbies, their pet projects, all types of shit they can do on the mornings they wake up and have no plans.

It’s the days they can’t do that stuff that they get all pissy, but that bitching is also what makes their hobbies and free time seem like so much fun.

Like, ok, say right now isn’t right now. Say, instead, it’s a couple years ago, and I’m at my mom’s old place, before I was working at Shambles, after I got kicked out of school, after my mom died. Say I wake up and get out of bed and go out in the living room and don’t go past that point. Every day for like a week, I’m just out in the living room lounging, doing nothing from Monday to Sunday. Every morning, waking up and watching five different movies on DVD, eat a bunch of delivery junk food and playing video games, hitting my bong and making every possible effort to not leave the house even once. Say I do all this for an entire week. Come the following Monday morning, I’m going to wake up and think that house is like my own personal Siberian prison, you know? I’m going to start feeling like it’s my very own white padded cell and I’m stuck here in a straitjacket. I’m going to want to do anything I possibly can to get the fuck out of that place, and I mean anything.

The only problem back then was that, sometimes, that place I was at, that living room/prison I couldn’t bear to live in anymore…it was in my head. And it’s not easy to leave a place when it’s in your head. Even if you leave the physical place that reminds you of it, your mind’s still there. And when that happens, you feel trapped, and trapped people do crazy things.

We’re animals like that. Throw us in a cage, especially a mental one, and bad shit starts happening.

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94. Pamphlet of Les Palmer’s Exhibit

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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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92. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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August 20 2005,

Morning: 0 out of 10

Afternoon: 0 out of 10

Evening: 0 out of 10

Fucking A I think I made a mistake I fucking hate it up here Tallahassee is so horrible I mean it was good the first week living in my own apartment like a new place without all the old memories and crap just playing video games and just relaxing not thinking about my mom or dad or friends or Shamble’s or any of that shit but then a few days ago I was sitting on the couch playing Prince of Persia and the walls started closing in on me like I was in a fucking garbage disposal and the place started feeling like it was running out of air like I was on a leaky spaceship or something and I dont even know what the fuck Im talking about but I went outside to get some air and realized how fucking empty this goddamn city is how secluded and stagnant the air smells so stale up here like its recycled or something and its like a ghost town right now with school not starting for another two weeks and I think I might have moved up here too early because I feel like Ive completely regressed to my old self in just a couple days like I can’t even organize my mind right now and I keep trying but whenever I close my eyes and try to think I just imagine myself getting in my car and turning onto the I4 exit over on Monroe and hitting the gas until my car smashes into something rocky and immovable and shoots me through the windshield and splatters my brains on the concrete and just ends all of this crap so I can fucking sleep I havent slept in fucking days and I just want to not go back to this pounding in my head and chest and the thoughts like the whole worlds out to get me are coming back and it’s the same what’s the point of any of this shit type of thoughts and the urges the fucking urges to just do the stupidest shit possible and fucking consume consume consume consume consume everything I drank three 40’s of OE last night walking down the street and talking to myself about I don’t even remember what the fuck and walked right by a campus cop and he didnt even say anything and I really wish he had because I dont need enablers right now I need somebody to stop me because I dont want to get like this again I dont think Ill survive it this time I really fucking dont think

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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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90. Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 2

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25 June 2011

– I’ve always fancied young men.

– Younger than me. Since the day I turned thirty and realized that a woman’s desires rise exponentially as a man’s fails.

– And these men nowadays, with their youthful, vibrant bodies and so much…vigor. I’m assuming that Les Palmer was no different.

– Catherine helped me quite frequently around this gallery for almost two years before he showed up. And she was depressed everyday of those two years.

– I offered her everything. As one of very few of my family members I am on speaking terms with, I could have given Catherine anything she needed to be comfortable. But alas, Catherine is a rare breed: the type of person who actually enjoys working for her own. But I could always tell the one thing she wanted more than anything was love, something I could not financially provide for her.

– She never spoke to me about it, and she wasn’t outright miserable. Most of the emotions would have been invisible to anybody else. But I have a certain…flair for that sort of thing. For seeing the other sides of people, the veiled emotions they try so desperately to keep hidden from the public.

– Catherine was disheartened until Les came around. Then she was ecstatic, for a while at least. Then, of course, she was unhappy again, as is typical of relationships.

– It was all Les. That young man had a hold over her, physically and mentally. He was an intricate one.

– I heard of him for the first time the day Catherine brought in that drawing of his and asked me what I thought of it.

– We have a trend at our gallery of splitting our exhibitions each season between veteran artists and new, aspiring talents. The more prominent names draw the crowd, and the younger artists get their evening of exposure. The gallery gets half the profits regardless.

– Catherine asked me if I would take a look at a piece of Les’s work, and I obliged because I’ve always believed the bond of family is indomitable. My niece is a decent judge of quality as well—it is a blood trait, I believe, for our women to have a good eye for that  sort of thing—so I sat here in my office chair, leaned back, lit a cigarette, and put my hand out. She placed the paper on the tip of my fingers and I turned it towards my face and [Ms. Veicht pauses, shaking her head] absolutely stunning.

– Astonishing, truly astonishing.

– Astonishing is not the type of word I tend to throw around lightly.

– What Catherine brought to me that day was truly art, at its finest.

– I didn’t know then that Mr. Palmer was her bed buddy. I believe Cathy was going for the objective viewpoint in not telling me. Which, though an understandable move on her part, was unnecessary and willfully deceitful, hence the reason it is a sore point for me. But I digress.

– If I had known she was sleeping with the next Brett Whiteley, it still would not have deterred me from viewing Mr. Palmer’s work as a genuine masterpiece. Mr. Palmer had managed to take a sketching pencil—a simple 2B, it seemed—and create a landscape of desolation so potent, my eyes watered the moment they lay upon it.

– It was a fairly simple image, night time, with the focal point of the piece directed more upon the sky and the gray moon than the burning house at the bottom. The old truck out front was like decoration on a Christmas tree.

– Not just any drawing. I received my Master’s in Art History from Duke University, and I’ve enrolled in more art appreciation courses than you could put your mind around. Fire is, by far, the hardest thing to depict in a piece of work. Impossible to do in black and white. Absolutely impossible. Except, it seemed, for Mr. Palmer.

– The burning house was of photographic quality. So real it was almost hard to look at.

– Bright, burning the retinas, yet I couldn’t take my eyes away.

– I asked Catherine who had created this masterpiece, and it was at that point my sixth sense kicked in and I forced her to reveal to me the true nature of her and Les Palmer’s relationship.

– My own niece, hiding something so pressing from me as a new romance with a natural artistic prodigy? That cannot be tolerated.

– If she can withhold such a significant development, what else can she do? Divulge the inner workings of my gallery to competitors?

– That’s how it starts.

– Sure, I wasn’t going to throw away the chance to exhibit such talent. But not before I gave Catherine a stern talking to. And if it were to happen again, family or not, I would be finding new help around here.

– I could not be more sincere about anything. There are no secrets in my gallery.

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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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88. Interview with Frank Doucoure

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who is anthony stephens?

Frank Doucoure is the general manager of a Key Foods Grocery Store in Queens, New York, where Earl Bishop was an employee for fifteen days before violating his parole. Standing in the storage area of the store, Mr. Doucoure hold a clipboard in his hand, checking off boxes as he speaks

16 August 2011

– Fucking kid, Bishop.

– Me and Jesús, we grew up together, you know? Owe the man my life.

– So I does him a favor with the Bishop kid, bring him in as a bag boy. Tells him he moves up to cashier in a few months if things go smooth, after a little whiles I might have an assistant manager position for him.

– Think about it, you know?

– Kid’s fresh out the pen and not only’s I’m offering him a job, but it’s got room for growth, expansion. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

– But no. This Bishop kid, he throws it right back in my face. Fucking kids nowadays.

– Bishop seems like he’ll work out for a while. A few issues with appearance. Kept telling him to get rid of the beard, but everyday he’d show up with his face looking like a black bear’s ass, no apologies.

– I let some things slide. Like I says, it’s a favor to Jesús.

– But then, one day, about two weeks after I hires the kid, Bishop’s bagging some guy’s groceries in lane ten and the guy’s telling him he wants his eggs in their own bag.

– Bishop’s packing the guy’s eggs in with the canned fruits and shit. Legitimate request, right?

– You got’s the right, if you’re a customer in my store, to ask for your eggs in their own bag.

– But, no. Bishop flips on the guy. Grabs his collar, pulls him over the counter and slams his head into the register.

– Poor cashier, this little high school girl named Katie—real cute, sweet girl, reminds me of my daughter—she’s shaking over in the corner whiles Bishop’s acting like a raving lunatic.

– Then he just walks out, leaves this mess for everybody else to clean up, a busted cash register and a customer with a bloody mouth and a broken nose.

– I’m telling you, these kids, got no respect no more for nobody, not even each other. Turning into a fucking madhouse out there, end a the world type of shit. I’m telling you, my generation, we was the end of sanity as we know it.

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87. Interview with Jesús Hernandez: Part 2

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12 July 2011

– For the most part, yeah.

– He came in about eight times before he went AWOL. Twice a week for a month, and every time his eyes grew darker, his beard heavier, his voice deeper.

– Reading his file and the pretty normal things he did before he started burning down houses, it was like reverse metamorphosis to see him each visit. Like watching a butterfly turn back to a worm.

– I set him up with a job and checked in on him now and again where he was staying at with his delinquent cousin, Price—you talked to him yet?

– Bad news, that one there. Didn’t like Bishop staying with him at all, but he didn’t really have a choice.

– Well, everything seemed to be going decent for a little while. Until that one day.

– Less than two weeks after his first day on the job, barely out of training yet, I get a call from my buddy Frank at Key Food, find out Bishop’d already been fired.

– Or quit, whatever. Don’t remember the details, but he lasted all of two weeks at the place. I called in a favor to get him that job, and he embarrassed me in front of a good friend.

– Frank Doucoure. Over at Key Foods in Queens, near the bridge.

– No problem. Like I was saying though, I knew. I was just waiting for Bishop to shoot himself in the foot.

– I’m not a babysitter. These are grown ass men out here. They want to go back to prison, that’s their prerogative. I have a wife and son to feed and love, so I just do my job and hope that everybody else does theirs.

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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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83. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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June 15 2005,           

Morning: 4 out of 10

Afternoon: 6 out of10

Evening: 5 out of 10

Graduating in a few weeks. Finally.

It feels good to be going somewhere, to have a plan. To take the next step.

My acceptance letter from FSU came in last week and now it’s all about looking for a place in Tallahassee, selling my mom’s house, packing everything up and hitting the road. And through it all, all the excitement and anticipation I’ve felt the past week, I can’t stop thinking about that last journal entry.

It’s been over two years since Janice left me.

Even with my breakdown and the psychotherapy and all that, that’s a long fucking time not to be romantically involved with anybody.

It’s not like I haven’t been with a woman since then, that’s not what’s bothering me. That stuff doesn’t really count when you’re talking about a relationship. A meaningful relationship. The last time I can remember having even a meaningful conversation with a woman was the day I told Janice to basically  kiss my ass.

But even then, like I said, it’s not the lack of a girlfriend that bothers me now. It’s the fact that it hasn’t bothered me.

Until now. I didn’t realize how long I’d been single until Dr. Silver asked me the other day.

I only have about three more visits with you, Doc, before I move. Then I’m on my own, so to speak.

I want to use that time to talk about this no-girlfriend thing, what you think it means about my personality.

Does it mean I’m too introverted, or have I just become independent enough not to need somebody to prop me up?

Is it a positive sign that I’m moving forward, or am I just so screwed up that I can never be in a serious relationship again?

Am I getting better, or am I slowly rotting beneath the surface?

Because I can’t tell the difference anymore.

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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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81. Interview with Jesús Hernandez: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Jesús  Hernandez is a probation officer in Queens, New York, and was the assigned P.O. to Earl upon his release from prison. Mr. Hernandez’s office desk is covered with folders and Post-It notes, and Mr. Hernandez himself seems extremely fatigued, his tie loosened and the top few buttons on his dress shirt undone. He yawns and scratches his graying temples before speaking

12 July 2011

– Earl Bishop. Earl goddamn Bishop.

– One month. That’s all it took for him to violate. A month. [Mr. Hernandez sighs and shakes his head] I was surprised myself, actually, I admit. I gave him a week or less.

– I knew he’d violate, after that first conversation. He just had that look, like a chained animal? How they’re willing to chew off their own arm if they have to?

– You work long enough in this job, you get to know the type of people that come to see you just by their mug shot and the charges. I got the call from Florida, says that Bishop’s returning to the city and they need to have his papers sent over and processed. So I get his file and he looks like a decent guy. Small arson conviction, no priors, I can handle that. A lot of stress off my back, you know? Less I got to worry about.

– Then this kid walks in, and there goes my day.

– He sits across from me, on the other side of my desk, and doesn’t say a word. I’m reading through his file, sizing him up, trying to figure out exactly what it is about him that seems so—off.

– He’s looking around the room, at those certificates and the picture of my wife and son and everything, then he looks at me. Gives me this real beady stare, like he’s calm on the outside but seconds away from snapping, you know?

– He stares at me for a good ten seconds, then says “What now?”

– “What now?” All he said. And I just knew.

– Right then, I just knew. He hadn’t learned a goddamn thing in prison.

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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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79. Interview with Felicia Veicht: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Felicia Veicht is the owner of Veicht Studio in Boca Raton. She is the aunt of Cathy D’Amico as well as the promoter of Anthony’s (a.k.a. Les Palmer’s) art exhibition the night of his death. Her office is located in the back of the gallery, a large room with a painting on each wall and a large window behind her head. Ms. Veicht is a middle-aged woman, though she doesn’t look it with bright red lipstick and short, pink hair and a youthful, attractive face. Crow’s feet by her eyes and faint wrinkles in her hands are the only giveaways, as she frequently flails them around while she talks about her association with Anthony Stephens, whom she knew as Les Palmer

25 June 2011

– Les?

– Knew him a little, yes. Hardly know anything about him and Claire, though. [Ms. Veicht scowls] A matter that is still sensitive as far as I’m concerned.

– I abhor secrets. Absolutely despise them. I do not keep secrets from anybody I consider a companion or close acquaintance. And even then.

– No exceptions.

– I’m absolutely serious.

– Ok, an example: the morning of the day I filed for divorce from my ex husband—that very morning, before I got in the car for the meeting that would lead to the dissolution of our arrangement—I walked up to him in our apartment, looked him in his eyes, and told him that I was going to the lawyer’s office, that the papers would be drafted in due time and he’d be getting a call that afternoon.

– Yes, no hesitation in matters of truth.

– Likewise, prior to the divorce proceedings, when Mr. Klein—my lawyer—asked if my soon-to-be-ex-husband had committed any unsavory acts during our marriage that could be used as leverage against him, I told Mr. Klein about my husband’s affair with my half-sister—Catherine’s mother—a matter that I would urge you not to discuss in front of Catherine if you please. For her own sake.

– I also told Mr. Klein about the drunkenly awkward backhand my soon-to-be-ex-husband gave me one night in the driveway. I even told him that the slap came after I called him a sniveling little prick who had his head shoved so far up his mother’s rich, pruned rear-end he could smell her rancid breath from the inside.

– And even after everything, even after the judge awarded me half of his sizable fortune, I still walked up to him and told him that it had been extremely nice doing business with him, and that I would be retiring from my profession as a realtor and opening two art galleries on the coast: one here in Boca and the other on South Beach, in Miami. I told him that my half-sister would be heading the Miami location, and that he should come by and visit sometime.

– Full, complete honesty in each and every situation. The truth shall set you free.

– It’s not cliché, it’s fact.

– What does it have to do with Palmer? It has a lot to do with him. I may exhibit a superb amount of indifference in my social life, sir, but there are no secrets when it comes to me. And I don’t understand why it can’t be the same for other people. Absolve stress from your mind and body, liberate the truth, set it free from its shackles, discontinue this dreadful habit of reining it in.

– I do believe that most people have honest souls, or as honest as they can be. But Les Palmer? Cathy’s lover? I could never tell with him. He was a hard egg to crack, not rotten from what I could perceive, but definitely…boiled.

– A remarkably handsome young man, if I must say so myself. I can see what Cathy saw in him. A bit too rough around the edges for my taste, but handsome nonetheless.

– As an aging woman in this ruthlessly decadent fine art industry, I have nothing but my reputation to hold me above the rest of these money-grubbing heathens, and dating a young, disheveled African-American male with a seemingly dark and mysterious past is not the way to wow the type of crowd that frequents my gallery.

– I wouldn’t care otherwise. From the glow on Cathy’s face in those first few months, he must have been exquisite in bed.

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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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77. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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June 5 2005,

Morning: 2 out of 10

Afternoon: 3 out of10

Evening: 2 out of 10

My girlfriend, Janice, she broke up with me because she found out I didn’t love her. And she found out because I told her, even though I didn’t really realize I was telling her until later.

We were hanging out at Dill’s Tavern having a few drinks one night, and she asked me if I wanted to go visit her family in Texas. We’d been together for a couple months by then and it was a legitimate question, an “I-want-to-see-if-there’s-a-future-in-this-thing” type of question. Janice was twenty-two, mature for her age, looking for something stable, with every right, you know? She can search for potential, I don’t fault her in that.

But I said no. Didn’t just say no, actually. Said “hell no,” which didn’t go over too well. Already on the verge of tears, she gave me a shot of those large green eyes, those haunting fucking emeralds.

“Why?” she asked. “And why do you have to be such a dick about it?”

And staring at her, looking in those beautiful eyes and sipping my beer, knowing that this girl was falling for me, knowing I could have a future with this girl if I would just let it happen, I still couldn’t stop myself.

“Because I don’t want to meet your family,” I said. “Because if you keep fucking asking me I’ll do it and embarrass you in front of them on purpose. I’ll get drunk and hit on your mom and tell your dad what your ass looks like when I’m fucking you from behind and then I’ll walk out.” I paused, made sure she knew I was looking right at her, then said “Because we can keep fucking and hanging out with each other every once in a while, but all this lovey-dovey-family-intro bullshit ain’t happening.”

She gave me a chance, one small breath of a second to take it all back. I could see it in her face that she was waiting, and I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

She broke up with me that night, a couple of hours later (which I’m surprised about, in retrospect. That it took a couple of hours). Janice broke up with me and flat out told me I would never see or hear from her again, and then kept her promise, even when I called her the next night, and a few nights after that.

And the worst part about it is I knew. While I was telling her all that shit, I knew that she would break up with me, and I also knew that I didn’t really want her to.

After hearing the malice in my own voice though, the total disregard for her feelings, it was inevitable.

But that inevitability also made it more certain that I’d go through with the whole thing.

That’s what I’m dealing with lately, Doc. That’s who I’ve been, the other part of myself I don’t even know or understand and can’t seem to rein in. The part that tried to kill me, the part that’s destroyed almost every personal relationship I’ve ever had, whether romantic or friendly.

It’s like there’s this supremely pessimistic, self destructive little prick living in my brain, a short fat old grumpy man sitting back in his recliner and bitching about everything and everybody all day long, one long never-ending curse against humanity, constantly trying to convince himself and me that life sucks and is pointless and everything’s a cliché and I’m stupid for ever giving a shit about anything.

I used to believe him, used to think I had no choice but to believe the asshole. Didn’t even think he was an asshole, more like a prophet.

Now, I hate that dude. Seriously, I fucking hate him and want him to go away.

Which I guess is a step in the right direction, as you like to say.

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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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75. Anthony Stephens’ Final Bank Statement

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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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73. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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April 2 2005,

Morning: 5 out of 10

Afternoon: 6 out of10

Evening: 7 out of 10

Looking back on my journal entries, I have come to the conclusion that I’m either bi-polar or just extremely indecisive.

One minute I’m revering the psychology field, the next I’m berating it.

One minute I think my mother’s faultless, the next she’s the reason I’m so screwed up.

The only thing I see that’s remained constant is this confusion about my father. Which is ironic: that my father’s the most stable issue in my head right now.

I remember this one time when I was like eight years old, right before Hurricane Andrew came through and fucked Miami up (that’s a whole other thing Dr. Silver thinks I should talk about, but I already talked to all those damn shrinks from UM about it after they rebuilt our house, back when I was like ten. Think I can deal with that on my own). My mom had gone up to visit her mother, my grandmother, in Toronto. My grandfather had just died and my grandmother was sick so my mom went to be with her for a little while. My dad stayed behind and took care of me for the few days my mom was gone. He was working at an art store back then, some place that sold canvases and paintbrushes and all that other stuff.

I remember being in school one of those days and looking forward to going home to see him, because he was almost always working when my mom was around. I didn’t know why I wanted to spend time with him, I just knew that I did, and I was so happy all day at school. I know. Homo.

Anyways, he came home that first day with a pad of high quality paper, a box of color pencils, another box of sharpened number 2 pencils and all types of markers and shit, this whole huge package of stuff he just handed me and told me was mine. I looked at him, surprised when he gave it to me and he gave me this slight smile, the only type of smile he ever really gave from what I can remember; kind of a nervous grin. He gave it to me, smiled and said “try it. See if you like it. If not, try something else.”

That day is one of the reasons I can’t say with any honesty that I hate my dad for leaving. Even though he did abandon us and never looked back, I have to believe he was just following his own advice.

And you can’t hate somebody for that.

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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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71.Interview with Rose Flagler: Part 3

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14 July 2011

– Anyways, Stephens wasn’t as young as my granddaughter. He was fully grown and looked healthy enough.

– I mean, he was still a boy compared to my husband and I.

– He came in to stay with us for the night and he smelled like the Greyhound station. I’ve grown accustomed to the smells of guests, look forward to the variety actually. I can tell certain things with a handshake. Guess whether they came to St. Augustine by plane, bus or car before they say anything concerning the subject. If they came by way of car, I can tell whether it was new or old, if they ate at a rest stop or out of crumpled bags in the backseat on their way to our home; whether or not there were children in there, even if the little ones are waiting in the car when I first see the parents.

– Stephens was a bus rider for sure, I didn’t even have to shake his hand to know that. I just took a look at his belongings, the large swollen duffel bag, the notebook, the jacket he wore.

– He never said more than two words to confirm it though. Just walked in, paid, and locked himself in the room.

– That’s the reason he stands out in my memory so much, actually. I was a little offended that first night, I admit.

– I always assumed people came to Bed and Breakfasts for the experience. It’s why Frank and I started this business, to provide an experience.

– I have this recipe for blueberry pancakes that is award-winning, literally. I entered it on the Food Network’s annual breakfast show a few years ago when they came around to Jacksonville, placed second in the finals. Entered some other recipes too and got a few honorable mentions, great eatings if I do say so myself.

– I’ve got my patented Heavenly Angel Food cake, a barbecue rib recipe with a secret sauce that even Frank doesn’t know how to make, and a corned beef and cabbage dish with diced red potatoes, seasoned specially with ingredients I got from my own Irish mother. It’s all on the brochure and website for our home. We cook meals three times a day, every day. Our kitchen appliances are stainless steel and my Costco membership card has seen much use over the past few years.

– What all that means is I’m accustomed to a certain mannerism from visitors. They come to us for a more personal atmosphere than all the big name hotels. We don’t ask questions unless they bring us closer to our guests. But Stephens didn’t even eat with us, talk with us, or anything.

– I sweated in the kitchen that night, spent extra time steaming the cabbage so it would be extra soft—I was trying to impress the fellow, I still don’t know why.

– I guess—he was just so awfully lonely and sad looking, I felt he needed some cheering up. I set the table and Frank came out and sat and waited patiently and I went to Stephens’ room and knocked and he never even had the decency to open the door. He just called out and told us he wouldn’t be joining us. He had work to do, he said.

– And, you know, sounds drift in our house, as if the walls gossip with each other sometimes. We hear everything and I like to keep it that way.

– That night, after clearing the dining table and throwing away most of that fine meal I made, I lay in bed listening for any sounds from Stephens. I lay there for hours, waiting for the next new snores or sleep moans or gasps when he woke up.

– Anyways, late, after a while, I finally began to drift off. I was almost asleep when the sound from downstairs changed, a different sound altogether than normal sleep. It took me a while to recognize it as someone crying.

– I lay there awake for the rest of the night then, listening to him. Got up at one point to put my ear to his door. It was like a cycle. Snore, moan, gasp, cry, repeat.

– And standing at his door I heard another sound too, in between the gasping himself awake and the crying there was a ten minute interval where I could hear—very faint—the sound of paper rubbing on paper coming from under the door, the way a thick-paged bible sounds when you flip the pages.

– I assume he was looking through that notebook of his. But why would somebody keep reading something that makes them cry every time they look at it?

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70. Interview with Samuel Silverstein: Part 3

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11 July 2011

– I found my little loopholes in Bishop’s case.

– “A serial killer’s eye for detail” is how my mentor used to describe me. Turned out one of Bishop’s renditions of his confession—the one where he said they stole the bodies—coupled with the medical examiner’s autopsy report were the break we needed.

– M.E.’s testimony that the bodies were dead weeks before the fire threw a huge hole in the case, the D.A. wasn’t expecting that. No motive. No ID. No evidence to show where they had actually been killed.

– In cases like this, the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a defense attorney’s best friend. His lover. His bitch.

– Honestly, I think I could have gotten Bishop off with nothing but probation, if he had just kept his damn mouth shut. But I figured two years prison time with two dropped first degree murder charges was enough to catapult my resume to the forefront of Morton & Stanley’s stack.

– I’d been scouted by them for a while by then. The partners had sent numerous representatives down for every one of my trials for about a year.

– But I hadn’t had any real challenges in that time. A few robbery cases, couple of rape defenses. A perfect record throughout, but nothing that’d make somebody charter a plane on my behalf. Nothing that would have anybody saying “we’ve got to have this guy.” Until I get the call that this Bishop kid has no lawyer. Murder-arson.

– It was like a godsend.

– No matter to me. Honestly, I don’t give a damn if Bishop set that fire and murdered those people.

– But, honestly, if he did, I’m damn glad it worked out the way it did. [Mr. Silverstein glances out the window] Manhattan is absolutely lovely this time of year.

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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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68. Interview with James Bennett: Part 3

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5 July 2011

– I’m telling you, if Silverstein hadn’t walked in with his fucking expensive briefcase and suit and haircut and started babbling on with his greaseball bullshit, I’d have closed in two days, max.

– Two days! [Mr. Bennett takes a moment to collect himself]

– It was eight years I’d been in Tallahassee back then, eight years I’d been living in this hellhole of a city, with its bratty college students and grumpy fucking retirees. Five of those years spent with the precinct. I wanted out, and Bishop would have been my way if it weren’t for Mr. Self-Righteous.

– So—I don’t know, I just snapped.

– Something burst inside and then I blanked out, can’t really explain it any other way than that. I tried, to the shrinks at the precinct. They just told me to stop drinking, get another psych eval and maybe I’d get detective again.

– Yeah, I guess, I was drinking a lot at that time, sure, but it had nothing to do with that. Shrinks say it did, chief said it did, but, [Mr. Bennett gives me a wry smile and opens his palms, shrugging] you know I didn’t want to hear that.

– Either way, when I came to, my hands were around the lawyer’s neck and his face looked like a huge, swollen zit. People were yanking me off of him and he sat there gagging and I stood there yelling and I looked up, and I’ll be damned if the Bishop kid wasn’t smiling in his fucking chair.

– Fucking smiling. I swear to God he was.

– Before I could even recognize the situation for what it was I was suspended for two weeks without pay. Before I even got back to my desk, actually. The chief was standing there when I walked in, just shook his head and made me hand over my badge and my piece.

– Finished my bottle of Jack that night. Wasn’t the celebration I expected it to be.

– I could just see the agents in D.C., shaking their heads in disgust. And that damn Bishop kid, in his cell that night, laughing his ass off. I bet on it. He laughed. At least once, at me particularly. I’m telling you, I got fucked on that case.

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67. Interview with Samuel Silverstein: Part 2

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11 July 2011

[Mr. Silverstein takes a moment to receive a call from a client, stepping into a separate room in his office. The main room is complete with its own shower, closet, couch and big screen TV. He finishes up and returns to his chair, leaning back]

– Apologies. Business.

[Mr. Silverstein lets out a hearty laugh] Honest opinion?

– Honestly, all joking aside, Detective Bennett and Earl Bishop were the best things that happened to me.

– I saw Bishop’s file before I heard how they picked him up. I caused the scene because I knew the case was a no-win situation if I couldn’t find an out. A straight up trial would have been career suicide. So I counted on somebody making a mistake. Didn’t think it would be that sort of mistake but, hey, take what I can get.

– [Mr. Silverstein shakes his head] Honestly, though, Detective Bennett’s got one hell of a left hook.

– Well…I came in there expecting a few things. I expected that somebody had done something minor against protocol; searching Bishop’s place without a proper warrant, roughing him up a little too much, failing to read his rights.

– Tallahassee officers aren’t as experienced in this sort of thing as NYPD. It’s harder to pull something like what I did back then up here, more of a challenge.

– I appreciate it, keeps me on my toes, but every once in a while I miss the…simplicity of the South.

– First thing I saw when I walked into the department was the kid’s bruised forehead and the small gash across his arm from the hook of the handcuffs. And even with that there was a slim chance I’d be able to use any of it as leverage in a case like this.

– But there was only a split second for a decision, and if there’s anything I learned back in law school it’s to go with what you’ve got. So I ran into that room and threw everything I had at those detectives, every bit of legal speak I could think of. [Mr. Silverstein shrugs] And Detective Bennett, gentleman that he is, handed me the trial on a silver platter.

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66. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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January 29 2005,

Morning: 6 out of 10

Afternoon: 2 out of10

Evening: 4 out of 10

I read this thing for homework tonight about the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century philosopher George Santayana, the guy who came up with the quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

To me, I’ll give Santayana credit for being one of the most observant people in history. But I also think the dude was a fucking instigator. Without him, no way would I have been sitting in Dr. Silver’s chair today balling my eyes out over a mother who’s already dead three years now.

Before everybody jumped on the psychological bandwagon, people seemed to be just fine going about their lives making the same damn mistakes their parents did.

But then you’ve got guys like Santayana and Freud and Pavlov who come along with their theories and suddenly people aren’t okay with their lives the way they are.

Suddenly people are sitting on couches trying to figure out why they’re having dreams about their zombie parents.

Suddenly people are trying to figure out why they feel guilty for their mom’s death and why they don’t remember their father the way he actually looks when he left at an age when they should be able to remember everything and why they feel the same urges now that their father did then, the urge to leave anybody and anything that gets close enough to possibly fuck him over.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. And I don’t want to know.

Some people think this stuff is beneficial to individuals, to society. That knowing more about ourselves as humans is a step in the right direction.

But I feel like people were a lot happier just coping back in the day.

If all you ever have in life are breakthroughs then—in the end—aren’t you just living a broken life?

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65. Interview with Rose Flagler: Part 2

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14 July 2011

– The Food Network’s pleasant. Not like these other channels with the murders and suicides and—lord, it’s sad. So sad. It’s no wonder about this generation.

– But Stephens was slightly older than what I’m used to seeing.

– Twenty-something, at least. Around your age, maybe a little younger, but not too much. You’d think too old to fall in with all that nonsense.

– I thought the fads of today stuck with the grade school children. But maybe that’s just my opinion, based off my own experiences. My generation aged differently than yours. Frank and I met in high school, married at nineteen right before the war.[1]

– He came back from his tour and we had our first daughter, Monica, when I was twenty-four. And I was an adult then. I felt my age and so did the other women around me. It wasn’t too young. It was just right. Frank had his career, I had mine, and we were alright.

– But now, I don’t know.

– Just the way it is. Why, just the other day Sheryl, our second daughter, called to tell us she and her husband are dealing with one of these phases right now with our granddaughter, Marie. Marie just turned thirteen last month and she’s latched on to this new thing. Sheryl told us they’re calling it [Mrs. Flagler pauses, thoughtful] eno. No, sorry, emo. Short for emotional, as in the children who fancy it are very emotional people.

– I can’t understand it at all though. The things Sheryl told us about these emo children, they’re the types of things people used to get psychiatric help for back when I was her age. I mean, they would get a diagnosis and then get therapy. I remember even when Prozac came out years later, the things it was supposed to fix, the things it’s supposed to stop people from doing, those are the same things these kids do for fun now.

– Draft dodgers used to fake being crazy and depressed to stay out of the war. Now we’ve got children faking it for style. Sheryl said they had to take Marie to the hospital for cutting her arm open, nearly bled to death.

– After Marie was discharged, Sheryl made appointments with the school psychologist and spoke with him and, come to find out, Marie’s the fifth child in the past two months. There’s others walking around with scars on their arms from trying to cut themselves.

– Part of the culture’s to wear long sleeves just for that reason, to cover up the marks. My granddaughter—bless her heart— but my granddaughter attempted suicide as a fashion statement.


[1]  Judging by Mr. and Mrs. Flagler’s ages, Assumed to mean Vietnam.

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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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63. Interview with James Bennett: Part 2

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5 July 2011

– I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I—we—got the call, especially after we got Bishop’s license plate number off that Hill guy. I’m wired when we pull up to Bishop’s apartment and, I mean, he opened the door and I just knew.

– He was my meal ticket. Case closed in twenty-four, no questions asked. Go straight to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect your two hundred dollars.

– Kid mouths off to me a little, pushes my buttons, tells me I’ve got nothing on him, like we’re in some ‘50’s detective flick or something.

– So, in my excitement, I—yeah, I rough the kid up a little bit, tell him to shut his mouth. Step into his apartment and put him in cuffs, rifle through some of his shit, maybe push him up against the wall a couple of times. Nothing I’ve never done before, nothing any officer hasn’t done before.

– You gotta keep perps in line or they’ll take advantage of you, you know?

– And, I mean, I was seeing stars I was so excited, imagining the half empty bottle of Jack in the closet at my apartment and thinking about how hard I was going to celebrate that night. Maybe even get into the bit of Crown I had stashed under the sink.

– Yeah. Wasn’t really roughing him up though. More like…an intense arrest situation.

– Yeah. So we get him down to the precinct and I’m all smiles until the kid’s greaseball lawyer walks in. And suddenly my golden ticket ain’t a sure thing anymore, you know? A little more like bronze now, or fucking steel.

– [Mr. Bennett grinds his teeth and takes a sip of his water] Lawyer’s a character too. State-appointed, one of those aspiring types. The kind of guy that thinks pro bono’s an erection or something.

– He starts raving about how Bishop’s rights have been violated. This is before we even get to really questioning him, mind you. Hadn’t really gotten into it and he’d already admitted that he was there when the fire started, back at the apartment when I’d roughed him up a little. Officer Harold heard it, I heard it, full disclosure in my report, got the kid to sign a confession and everything. Bishop said he was there but he wasn’t the one that started it, his friend was.

– The mystery friend nobody could ever find.

– Which was all bullshit, but it was close enough to get his ass in a windowless room.

– Anybody can fake genuine. I’d have gotten the real truth out of him if all that other stuff hadn’t gone down. Five minutes, tops.

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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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61. Interview with Rose Flagler: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Rose Flagler is the owner of Flagler Bed and Breakfast in St. Augustine, FL, where Anthony Stephens is said to have stayed for the night on his way down to Boca Raton.  Mrs. Flagler is a stereotypical grandmotherly type, with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk perpetually present on her dining table. Outside, Mr. Flagler is mowing the lawn and Mrs. Flagler stares at him with obvious affection in her eyes.

14 July 2011

– Frank and I don’t ask very much of our visitors.

– Frank’s retired from IBM a few years ago, so the bed and breakfast is my business venture mostly. And the way I see it, business is business, can’t be too picky. Most people that stop by are respectable enough anyhow. Every once in a while we’ll get a crazy or two, but it happens so rarely that it’s worth more in entertainment value than stress. Lord knows we don’t need to stress about anything. It’s bad for your nerves, you know, stress is. Gets deep in your back and you can’t even sleep at night until it’s gone. But you should hear the stories, my Lord. We have stories people would never believe.

– Yes, the man you described on the phone, I remember him. Unusual boy.

– Not bad. Just unusual. Not a problem, just…memorable.

– There’s not very much that can rile us up at this point. I can’t tell the last time we’ve had to kick somebody out, been so long. And like I said, most people are respectable, don’t damage the furniture or anything like that. Nothing some bleach and a wash cloth can’t fix at least. And Mr. Stephens, he was one of the more calm ones. Didn’t break anything or cause any trouble.

– Very sullen though, that’s what I remember. He came by himself, wouldn’t give us a first name, just his last. Just…Stephens. He had a bag with him and a notebook that he clutched at his side as if it were his life, like he’d murder anybody that tried to take it from him.

– That’s the feeling I got, like he was a caged animal or something. Dark fellow. Clothes, skin, personality, all of it.

[Mrs. Flagler nods then gives a small grimace] I don’t want to seem like I’m coming down on him though. I’m being a little too harsh, now that I think about it.

– It’s just, I know how this generation is, with all the magazines and Music Television telling you all to be this way and that.

– Long ago came to the conclusion that it’s not immaturity that makes you all like this either, it’s just your generation. My generation hasn’t had to accept the same things yours has.

– If I were to sit and watch Music Television all day and see all the things you’ve got to see I’d be depressed too.

– It’s not inexperience either, it’s…you’re all saturated. That’s why I stick with Food Network myself, leave the rest of that stuff alone. The only time food’s depressing is when you don’t have any. [Mrs. Flagler chuckles and puts a hand to her mouth] Lord, that’s a clever one. The only depressing thing about food is when there’s none left. That’s a plan to live your life by if I ever heard one.

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60. Interview with Samuel Silverstein: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

Samuel Silverstein is currently a partner at the Manhattan, New York law firm Morton, Schuster, and Silverstein. He was formerly a public service attorney in Leon County, and was the defense lawyer in Earl Bishop’s trial. He meets out of his office in New York which overlooks Manhattan’s Central Park

11 July 2011

– Thank you. It is comfortable in here.

– Yes. Earl Bishop.

– Not very much to tell, sir. I can speculate and conceive of scenarios, but the fact is that I’m still under lawyer-client privilege jurisdiction until Mr. Bishop gives me permission to speak with you, or turns up dead.

[Mr. Silverstein shrugs] Nothing wrong with a little innocent speculation.

– In my honest opinion? I wouldn’t be surprised if Bishop was definitely more than just an innocent bystander.

– There was no need for me to tell him that. You see, you have to understand. Earl was one hell of a struggle from a legal standpoint.

– The evidence against him was overwhelming. Unidentified bodies, eyewitnesses, a complete written accessory confession. Later, he claimed his missing friend set the fire by accident while they were snooping in the house, just messing around. Then he recanted that admission. Then he brought it back and claimed they had set the fire, but they hadn’t known there were any bodies in the place, that it was dark in the house and they didn’t see anything. Then he claimed he knew the bodies were there, but they’d already set the fire by time they saw them. Then he finally claimed that he and his friend had stolen the bodies from the school’s science department as a prank, and that he didn’t know where his friend was at the time of his arrest.

– He claimed and claimed and claimed and—from a strictly speculative viewpoint—it was all bullshit bullshit bullshit. The kid was trying hard to get one over on us all, and I admire his resolve. But our legal system would have twisted him into a pretzel if I hadn’t stepped in. [Mr. Silverstein leans back in his chair and smirks] All considering, he’s lucky all he got was two years, what with him not knowing how to just keep his mouth shut.

– And—again, purely speculation—it was all bullshit. Pure bullshit, all of it. That, I tell you, that was obvious to me. [Mr. Silverstein places his hands flat on his desk, spreading his fingers] But, you see, my job isn’t to sniff out the bullshit. It’s to manufacture it, sell it to a jury of your peers. You look at my bus stop bench ads, they aren’t pictures of me pointing a finger, no. They’re pictures of me with my arms open [Mr. Silverstein opens his arms to demonstrate] Welcoming you into my world. The world of freedom.

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59. Interview with James Bennett: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

James Bennett is a detective with the Leon County Police Department and was the arresting officer in the case against Earl Bishop, though he was subsequently suspended due to extenuating circumstances. He sits in a local Waffle House near the FSU campus in Tallahassee, where he orders a plate of pancakes and bacon. Outside the skies have opened up and it is pouring rain. Detective Bennett claims this is normal for the area, that it’s been raining for days, and that he hasn’t seen the sun in two weeks

5 July 2011; 10:28:

– Conflict between me and Bishop? [Detective Bennett chuckles and sucks his teeth, glancing out the window] You could say that.

– Bishop was smart, that’s what happened. A right smart ass. You see, I knew.

Everything. Moment Bishop opened the door to his apartment, I just knew he had something to do with all this. It was in everything about him, the way he moved, the way he backed up and put his hands in the air just a little, real slow-like when we showed our badges, the way he just sighed and looked at the ground. He twitched a lot when he spoke, said some things that didn’t make any sense. And he wouldn’t make eye contact with me or Officer Harold the whole time we were questioning him. All signs of guilt, in my opinion.

– Harold retired last year. Wouldn’t bet on him speaking to you, he moved over to Daytona practically the moment he dropped his badge and gun off.

– No reason to stay around here longer than you’ve got to. That’s what pisses me off so much about the whole Bishop situation. You see—ok. I know it’s partly on me. We’re supposed to stay objective in our line of work and I gotta admit, I was happy as hell to have that warrant when we got there. Don’t know how we managed to get it on such short notice but I don’t think we would have had a chance to come back and get the kid if we hadn’t got him that day.

– He was a runner, for sure. Just had that vibe. I wanted him down at the precinct for questioning right then and there, didn’t even want to drive him, just wanted to teleport his ass over to county. It was one of those gut feelings you get after you’ve been working in the division for a couple of years. [Mr. Bennett sighs] Closed so many cases before that kid came around, chief didn’t even question me anymore about my progress. He knew I was good for it. Granted, Tallahassee didn’t really give us much of anything to make urgent. Every once in a while you’d have your raped sorority girl, suicidal dorm student, but mostly things were quiet. Like they say around the precinct sometimes, been a long time since Bundy was here.[1]

– You gotta understand the circumstances. 1-8-7 comes over the wire and I’m automatically buzzing. That’s how you get in situations like these. A John Doe case to boot? Hell, harder it is to crack, the better you look when you do.

– Only one of the bodies had anything hinting at ID: a wallet found half melted in the guy’s pockets. Would’ve been a great help, but when we looked through it there was nothing but a half-charred gas station receipt and a warped condom. Didn’t even know people still carried condoms in their wallets. Granted, turned out it had all been planted, but it was my instinct that got me at first.

– I was going off my gut. And hope.

[Detective Bennett sighs and begins poking a leftover piece of bacon around on his plate] I used to think Tallahassee would be my stepping stone. I never really was much for school. Came up here for FSU but ended up at TCC, AA in Criminology and just stopped there. Joined the precinct a few months later, told everybody I was doing it to serve and protect. But what I really wanted was a chance at a higher precinct, ultimately. The F-B-I. [Detective Bennett chuckles nervously] Sounds like a stretch, I know, but that’s the best way to become an agent, I’ve heard. It’s a process, with a whole list of steps like [Detective Bennett counts off on his fingers]:

– 1) Enroll in a low level precinct, somewhere that doesn’t have much of a caseload.

– 2) Start building up your resume with the little things, the easy cases: muggings, car-jackings, bar-fights, domestic violence, drunk driving. And every once in a while you’ll get a big one, 1-8-7, and everybody gets so damn excited to see some action you’ll get all the help you need. Case closed in under a week. Record setting times.

– 3) Apply to another precinct when you got your rep built up enough, the New-York’s or the Los-Angeles’s or the Miami’s. By then, you got a wall behind you holding you up, and you can smile and waltz into that new precinct with confidence.

– 4) Get a couple more cases under your belt and use your credentials to get a higher ranking position.

– Get all that done by your thirties. Then when it comes down to the real big time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you’re all but ushered in on a red carpet with a bottle of Jack as a welcome present. [Detective Bennett shrugs] Or so I’ve heard.


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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57. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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September 28 2004,

Morning: 6 out of 10

Afternoon: 7 out of 10

Night: 8 out of 10

Aced General Psych this past semester and been thinking about psychology ever since.

I got the hang of the theory and all that, I think. It’s interesting stuff when you get down to it, the human mind and how it operates, how it views itself.

The class ended up being a broader version of everything I’ve been talking to Doc Silver about for the past couple of months. It all makes a lot more sense to me now. More sense than the things I’m learning about in my other classes. More interesting than “Macroeconomics” or “Pre-1900 British Literature” or “Research and Study Tactics.”

When you look into people’s heads—when you can see how they tick, you start to realize that all the things people do every day really are just things. Whether the person’s out slitting people’s throats or building space rockets, doesn’t really matter.

I mean, it matters to society, but what really is society? Nothing. Society’s existence is just as crazy a belief as people who think they’re the second coming of Christ and everybody should down cyanide-laced Kool-Aid with them.

What’s the difference?

In those people’s minds, they’re doing exactly what they should and want to be doing at that moment. Just like society does. Which, honestly, makes it pretty hard to distinguish between what’s legitimately evil or just plain fucking insane. Maybe there is no difference. Maybe “evil” isn’t really as evil as we think…

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56. WCTV Eyewitness News Excerpt

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WCTV EYEWITNESS NEWS

Old Bainbridge Fire Update
 
Aired May 16, 2008 – 23:01   ET
 
TERESA BLACK, WCTV LOCAL NEWS ANCHOR: Update in Monday’s abandoned house-fire story. Earlier today, authorities arrested a suspect in the arson-murders, twenty-four year old Earl Bishop, a local Florida State graduate. Bishop is being held in county lockup without bail, accused of setting fire to the home in which two bodies were found Monday night.
 
Early Tuesday morning, local officials released details of the autopsy reports for the two recovered bodies, giving detectives reason to believe the deceased–who have not been identified–were deceased prior to the fire that destroyed the Old Bainbridge home. Bishop is the sole suspect in what’s believed to be a clear case of arson.
 
If you have any additional information about the events on Old Bainbridge Monday night, to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at (877) 555-TIPS. 

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55. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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June 7 2004

Morning: 6 out of 10

Afternoon: 5 out of10

Evening: 6 out of 10

Okay, after giving it some thought and talking about it some more, I understand why Dr. Silver made me write about the whole Carol Incident.

It’s been almost seven years since that weekend and everything on the surface of the incident blew over within a week, but I still remember the entire ordeal vividly.

That day with my mom, the way she judged me automatically then took it back and acted like she never did it to begin with, thinking about all of that brought on this epiphany.

It made me realize that, when it comes down to it, “family” is just a word. So is “love” and “forever.” They’re all just words.

You write them down, hand them to somebody else, they read them, implant them in their memory cells, and react accordingly until that cell either dies and the words are forgotten or they’re written down again and implanted into another cell.

Either way, they don’t last or stay the same. Because in the end that’s all anything is: a memory. An idea.

Trust, even the assumed trust between parent and child, is subjective. Just like everything else in this world.

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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.


53. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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May 29 2004 (continued)

An hour later I was about a mile away, sitting at a bus stop waiting for a metro to take me somewhere, anywhere where I wouldn’t be close to my mom’s house or Carol’s house or any of that shit.

It was a Sunday though, and I didn’t know if the buses ran on Sundays. I was about to get up and start walking again when a police car pulled up, its lights spinning. I thought about running, but I didn’t. Just sat there when the cop stepped out of the car and swaggered over.

“You Tony Stephens,” he asked me. His sunglasses reflected the sun behind my head so it looked like he had mirrors for eyes. Big, glinting mirrors.

I nodded.

“Come with me,” he said and I stood up, waiting for the handcuffs. They never came, he just told me to get in the car, in the passenger side.

The cop didn’t say a word during the short drive back to my mother’s house, and neither did I. When we got there, my mom stood outside with another cop whose hat was in his hands. It seemed like he was trying to calm her down. When she saw me she ran up and I flinched because I thought she was going to punch me in the mouth or something, but she hugged me instead, whispering “I’m sorry I’m sorry,” over and over again like it was a chant, like she was trying to conjure some spirit of forgiveness into my soul.

Long story short, it turned out that Carol had admitted her lie immediately when her mom got home, when she realized how bad things were about to get.

I don’t know what she thought would have happened otherwise. Josh and Jean were right there in the pool when everything went down, so it’s not like it would’ve just been my word against hers. I can’t blame her though. I didn’t think about any of that at the time either. I thought for sure I was going to jail.

Carol’s mom, out of embarrassment or pride or whatever, never actually apologized to me or my mother for the whole debacle. I never saw her again actually.

Carol I saw on the bus to school the next day. She never apologized either, just avoided my glare and sat alone at the front from that day forward. When news broke about what she’d tried to do, though, she was shunned by everybody, even the people who didn’t particularly like. Guess that’s just how high school is.

Eventually I stopped seeing her on the bus. Heard her mom started bringing her to school, and then I heard she dropped out completely. Never really found out for sure why, but rumor had it she got pregnant.

I don’t blame my mother for assuming what she assumed that day. She had no way of knowing otherwise. I was the only male in her life at that point, and with all the stories nowadays, you never know.

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52. Interview with Jarvis Glassner: Part 2

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11 October 2011

– Sure can. Remember it perfectly. Place was a time bomb, just like I knew it’d be. I told them all on the way out there, was going to be a scene in there. Weren’t the least bit surprised when I walked in that house after the boys put the blaze out.

– Smelt like a busted gas main. Made you lightheaded just standing there. The fumes was still strong too, too strong. Told the boys to get out, told them I didn’t think the place had done all the burning it could yet.

– Granted, they didn’t listen, and that pissed me off a little bit, I admit that. Nothing ended up happening but, you know… I know what I know.

– No sir. Gas was just confirmation for me. Like I said, I knew it was criminal behavior the moment the call came in.

– You see, most people see a burning house and get all these noble thoughts. In other cases, rape or murder or theft, people assume the worst. They want the perp to get locked up. It’s good television, those crimes. Fire though. Fire’s got enough danger and spectacular in itself to keep people’s attention. So they automatically assume it’s an accident. Stove left on, electrical cord short circuit, gas leak, whatever. And I’m not gonna lie and tell you that ain’t the case. A lot of times, it is.

– But like I said, there’s fingerprints everywhere when you set fire to a place. My job is to find them. Would have been a quick deal for me if it weren’t for the bodies.

– Most situations where nobody’s laying claim to the property, city’s likely to write it off as some punk kids causing mischief. Condemn the place and everybody moves on with their lives. But homicide. Homicide’s a different breed.

– Can’t say I was too happy about it either. Most times, I get to head a case myself. Just me and the boys, four or five of my closest. Close within a day or two and move on to the next. But since Bishop decided he wanted to throw murder into the mix, all of a sudden I got Leon County homicide sniffing around my legs. Like they almost pissed themselves when they heard about it.

– Not exactly. Turned out the fire and the murders was two different things, happened at two different times, so I got to keep my case. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about homicide itself, just the bureaucracy of it all. I don’t got nothing against them boys. We all in it for the same reasons.

– Officers around here are real kind, humble fellows. But in a college town like this, they don’t get to see much action outside of date rape and burglary. So their eyes were wide when they showed up at the scene. Like they was praying for a body or something and their prayers was answered in right fashion. Reminded me of them boys that came into Kuwait after us. Got to looking like they was used to showing up late to the movies, and they’d finally got there during the previews. Boredom will bring out the unusual in anybody.

– Only reason I hate the homicide situation though is because my job gets put on the back burner, not thrown out completely but loses a lot of its importance, you know? And that’s not a good feeling no way you look at it.

– I walk into the Bishop job and the walls is scorched. The second floor’s caved in to the ground. Place smells like a desert oil spill. I get to surface mark it as arson, no search yet, and then I look down and there’s John and Jane Doe barbecued on the floor and suddenly I’m standing behind a bunch of blue shirts. Two seconds earlier, I was first in command. Now everybody’s crowded around taking pictures of them burnt up bodies and then taking pictures of everything else: the walls, the floor, the front door.

– I got some prestige at the department, a little bit of seniority from my investigative record but I haven’t been schooled on how to investigate homicide. And when you got dead people around, nobody pays much attention to the sagging, rotting, burnt up building around them. So nobody pays much attention to me.

– Yes sir. Bodies plain as day in the living room, scorched to the bone. Never did figure out who they were either, from what I know.

– I wasn’t too upset about it, really. There wasn’t any animosity in it all. One of the detectives came up to me afterwards and patted me on the shoulder. Said I had my work cut out for me. Place was a mess, he said. He smiled and I smiled back. Couldn’t hold it against him. He didn’t kill nobody. We all in this together, like I said. It’s just the way things are supposed to run. But a veteran such as myself can’t help but feel like he got the short end of things.

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51. Interview with Robert “Bob” Hill: Part 2

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6 July 2011

– And if you goin’ say I shoulda just said “African-American fella,” I got a little somethin’ to say ‘bout that right there, that African American bit.

– I can’t tell you my own experience ‘cause I ain’t black. You see it, plain as day, I’m white. Heat got me tanned to a dark red ‘round this time a year, but you check my ass cheeks brother. [Bob chuckles] Like a newborn baby.

– And I can’t very well tell ya how you gotta to feel ‘bout African Americans. That’d be downright rude. But I do got a little thang I heard from somebody else, a good friend and coworker of mine, name’s Richard Cleveland but we call him Rusty. Rusty’s black, and we seen Obama on the TV one day and the news is there talking ‘bout him looking for the African American vote and all, and Rusty gets to laughin’ and says that he hates that, goddammit.

– Threw me off, I’ll tell you. Didn’t understand what the problem was.

– So I ask Rusty what he means, and he says Bobby—that’s what he calls me, Bobby—he says, Bobby, I ain’t African-American. I ain’t never been to Africa. I ain’t plannin’ on goin’ to Africa. My ma and pa ain’t been to Africa, neither my grandparents nor they parents that gave birth to ‘em. My mama came to Jacksonville from Barbados fifty some odd years ago. Daddy moved up to Duval from Fort Lauderdale ‘round the same time, and his parents ‘fore him was from Michigan. I ain’t never seen nor heard a African part to none of ‘em.

– And let me tell you, Rusty’s darker’n tar in the summer, lips like a peach, like this [Bob demonstrates the look of Rusty’s lips by puckering his and using his fingers to spread them out] and a nose broader’n both yo’ eyes put together.

– Now, if he ain’t callin’ himself African-American, why in damn hell I’ma go and call him that? Or anybody else ‘round these parts for that matter, ‘specially somebody I ain’t never seen before that’s goin’ ‘round settin’ thangs on fire?

– I ain’t never had a racist bone in my body, sir. Even after September 11, I ain’t got nothin’ against nobody.

– I’m just a proud resident of this neighborhood, have been for the better part of eighteen years now. I carried Shirley through the door a this house in her weddin’ dress the night we got hitched and I brung my daughter home from the hospital through that same door, and I’m plannin’ on walkin’ through that same goddamn door with my grandkids someday, and I wouldn’t like to see none a them grandchildren a mine runnin’ ‘round outside with burnt down houses and—that just ain’t gonna happen.

– You let one person get away with somethin’ like that, starts a trend. Next thing you know, you got people comin’ through all hours a the night with tanks a gas, just sprayin’ houses and lightin’ matches and whatnot, and next thing after that, whole neighborhood’s lit up like Jerusalem on doomsday.

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50. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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May 29 2004 (continued)

Two days after the Carol incident, I was nowhere near as angry as I had been. I was actually thinking it was all pretty minor, as far as embarrassing moments go. By then my balls weren’t hurting anymore and my outfit had been washed and still looked decent and I was okay with it all, just doing my thing. I was done with Carol, obviously, and I let her know it. She tried calling twice but I saw her name on the caller ID and told my mom I didn’t want to talk to her. Mom didn’t ask any questions.

Anyways, that all happened on a Friday, so it was a Sunday afternoon that I was in my room playing NBA Live and there was a knock on the front door. I came out in the living room and my mother had already answered and there was Carol’s mom, nose flared, staring over my mom’s shoulder at me like I was something she’d just stepped on in the grass.

She pointed at me and said—word for word I remember perfectly—“I’m going to fucking kill you, you little shit.”

She tried to get in the house and come after me and I wanted to run in my room and lock my door but I stood my ground (more because I was scared shitless than anything else) while my mom pushed Carol’s mom back out the door. My mom was intense, man. Should’ve seen her. She was like superwoman that day. Carol’s mom had at least four inches on her and probably twenty, thirty pounds. But my mom had her back out the door in a second, screaming that she was going to call the police if Carol’s mom didn’t get out. And Carol’s mom turned to my mom, looked her right in her face and said “I already did.

And my mom, looking confused, said “already did what?”

Carol’s mom looked back at me and her face was like fucking Medusa or something. She spit out, “the police, for him,” then pointed at me and,I mean, I could’ve imagined her hair just standing on end right then and hissing at me. Carol’s mom looked back at my mother and suddenly her shoulders slouched, her eyes filling with tears. And while I’m standing there trying to figure out what exactly is going on, Carol’s mom says “your son is a raping bastard.” And then, just to sink it in a little deeper—as if the accusation wasn’t already obvious—she burst out crying and said “he raped my daughter.”

I remember I had to think for a second about it, roll the idea around my mind.

Carol’s mom looked and sounded so convincing right then, so sure that what she was saying was the absolute truth, that I actually stood there and wondered if I had raped the girl. I’m standing there asking myself, “when’s the last time we had sex? Did she want to? Did she say no? Did she even kind of say no?”

Me, who has never violated anybody or even thought about anything close to the idea of forcing somebody to have sex with me in my life, I’m standing there doubting myself.

And it was in that moment of indecisiveness that my mother chose to turn around and look at me. Not a few minutes later, after I’d gotten my shit together. Not earlier, when I was just surprised by it all.

She looked at me right in the middle of my doubt and saw that wavering look on my face, and she didn’t say anything. Didn’t ask me if it was true, if there was anything I needed to tell her, nothing. She just stared at me with this look that’s hard to describe. It was like she was seeing me for the first time ever and just realizing she hated what she’d given birth to.

Carol’s mom said “they’re on their way” then slammed our door, stormed off to her car and raced out of the driveway. As soon as she was gone my mother opened the door again and pointed outside.

The way she said “get out,” I couldn’t even respond. I just walked into my room, threw a bunch of shit in a bag, and left.

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49. Interview with Nicholas Freeman: Part 2

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6 July 2011

– I saw no other explanation. Which is exactly my point.

– Long story short, because I was a bit nosy and noticed that change of address form, I was able to draft Mr. Stephens’ eviction papers quicker than if I’d waited until I got wind that he hadn’t paid his rent in a while. The papers were ready on my desk the day his grace period ended, and what made it even sweeter, if I can say so, was when the police showed up a few days later.

– I pride myself in efficiency, and if I hadn’t been on the ball I would have been no help to the authorities and would have inadvertently led them on a wild goose chase. As it stood, I was able to show them a copy of the eviction notice, though I left out the little detail about me looking through his mail. No reason to delve on that, in my opinion. Also, [Mr. Freeman sneers] told them that if they ever did find him, they could let him know he’d be hearing from our legal department as well.

– I don’t know. Don’t care, frankly. I did my job, and a damn fine one too if you ask me. You see, the quicker you get eviction papers together in a situation like that, the quicker you get the tenant out and the faster someone else can move in. It’s called a turnover rate, and it’s a very important number in this industry. The sooner someone else occupies a recently evicted apartment, the better my numbers look and the more likely I am to get promoted to regional. At which point I’ll never have to stick another piece of mail in anybody’s box again.

– So, you see, it’s a means to an end, what I do.

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48. Interview with Jarvis Glassner: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

[Jarvis Glassner has been a fire investigator with the Tallahassee Fire Department since 1992 and was on the scene during the investigation of the fire allegedly started by Earl Bishop and Anthony Stephens. Mr. Glassner is extremely enthusiastic to speak about his job and his experience both with this incident and within Tallahassee’s overall emergency response structure. Mr. Glassner works out of the primary police station in Tallahassee, where he sits in his office now, dabbing sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief]

11 October 2011; 13:23

– Twenty years I’ve been on the job. Past five of them years I spent turning down offers for everything from District Fire Chief to State Fire Marshall. I love Tallahassee. Love my job. Love the action. I refuse to sit at a desk filing papers into folders, sticking them in cabinets. To go out and face the media with some other field officer’s reports. Reports I could’ve very well gone out and made myself. I’ve got to be out here [Mr. Glassner points outside emphatically]—out there—digging through the leftovers. Finding the prints, whether that’s actual fingerprints or footprints or goddamn ass prints. These S-O-B’s always give themselves away at some point. It’s all in the details. One of my boys gives me a good enough description of the scene, I can tell you over the phone whether it’s arson or not, whether it’s accidental or purposeful. Heck, I could tell you if somebody was trying to make it look like a accident when it wasn’t. Can’t pull the wool over my eyes. It’s all in the training, basic to be exact…[1]

– Sure, sure. Just illustrating my point. I never been the type to sit in the background. I got too much sense to lay back and let somebody else fumble around with evidence. Half these men in here got the balls to do the job right when they’re told, but they don’t got the know how.

– The Bishop case now, hell. [Mr. Glassner chuckles and pats his knee lightly, looking around as if he wishes there were a larger audience] I knew that was arson soon as the call came in, moment they sounded the alarm for us to get out there. I’ve lived in this city my whole life. I been passing by them houses on Old Bainbridge almost every day since I was a boy riding in the back of my dad’s pickup.

– Them houses over there, they couldn’t set fire to themselves. Abandoned or not, them houses been standing for years, no problem. So, you see, things like what Bishop done, they just don’t happen coincidentally. And that’s where I come in. [Mr. Glassner leans in and lowers his voice, pointing his thumb back towards his chest] My job is to prove coincidences don’t exist.


[1] Mr. Glassner goes into a lengthy description of his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corp. during Operation Desert Storm in the late eighties. Mr. Glassner is a former member of the first battalion/seventh marines group, which he proudly states was the first team into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and one of the only teams to enter into any type of military combat during the conflict.

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47. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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May 29 2004,

Morning: 5 out of 10

Afternoon: 5 out of 10

Evening: 5 out of 10

Got into a pretty in depth talk with Dr. Silver today and he told me it might be some good venting if I write about it, so here it goes:

I had this quasi-girlfriend my junior year in high school named Carol.

On a side note: this isn’t a first-love-type story. Carol wasn’t my first girlfriend or the first girl I had sex with or the first girl I loved. I didn’t love her, I knew that and I think she did too. I had no idea what love was back then, still don’t. I was just following the rules of high school social status.

It takes one failed relationship to make most people realize that everything’s not always as perfect as people in movies and TV shows and the music industry make it seem. Especially not in my generation. People don’t do Boyz II Men anymore. It’s all about 50 Cent and Magic Sticks nowadays. Even Usher used to talk about that sentimental shit sometimes, back when I was in middle school. Now it’s all about breaking up, going out and partying and moving on right away.

Give some high school kids a couple of fucked-up weekend flings right now and they’ll start looking at every person of the opposite sex like they’re a conquest rather than an actual person, and anybody who tells him or her different just hasn’t learned yet, plain and simple. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me.

Carol and I were never “officially” a couple, which irked her and made me feel powerful because I had her on edge, which I thought would keep her from being able to hurt me. That’s how I thought when I was in high school. Like things were that easy to prevent, like all I had to do was will the bad stuff not to happen and the forces of nature would lean in my direction. Make everything just right. I thought I had everything figured out once I hit like seventeen. People tried to tell me that wasn’t the case, and I told them they were jealous. Because I already had my whole life in order and I wasn’t even legal yet.

So, one day, I came over Carol’s house to hang out as usual, wearing a brand new Phat Farm outfit I’d bought with some birthday money and listening to a Walkman I’d got the same day from my mom. Carol was in the pool with some friends of ours, this guy Josh and his girlfriend Jean. Carol got out of the pool to give me a hug and I backed away from her.

That was my phase back then, see. It was a prima donna mind state, I admit, but what can you do about it at that age? Nothing. You’ve got to follow standards, and standards around the people I rolled with said that you weren’t supposed to let anybody mess up a fresh new outfit, especially not with chlorine-filled pool water. That was my excuse.

Carol’s excuse for her reaction to it was a little more enigmatic.

I’m guessing that everybody has a breaking point when they feel like they’re being taken advantage of. Sometimes it’s something big that cracks them, like infidelity or physical abuse. Other times it’s something small. Whatever the case, when I backed away from Carol that day, she snapped. Started screaming and yelling about how I kept disrespecting her, treating her like some annoying puppy that just won’t leave me the fuck alone.

And all I’m thinking in my head is that I just don’t want her to mess up my outfit.

So I laugh, because the situation seems ridiculous to me. I meant it to be a laugh that would diffuse it all, show her how silly this whole thing was, bring our little foursome together so we could all hold hands and sing Kumbaya and smoke a peace pipe or what-the-fuck-ever. But I guess it came out sounding more like a condescending chuckle because next thing I know, she kicks me right in the balls.

I mean like, really kicks me, like how they do in the movies and you always wonder how the guy gets up afterwards.

Getting kicked in the nuts is not a stunt move. It isn’t like getting kicked in the funny bone or the spine or anything like that. The pain that hits you on impact is an imploding pain, like a mini hydrogen bomb just went off in your pants. It’s excruciating, but even then, it’s short lived. And if that’s all it was it wouldn’t have the stigma attached to it that it does. But that’s not it, because once your nuts stop hurting, suddenly your stomach bubbles over like you’ve got the worst diarrhea in the world, then the feeling moves north and your chest sort of feels like it’s going to cave in then it goes back south to your stomach and further down back to your nuts and then everything just hurts all at once.

And to top it all off, while I’m doubled over holding my crotch and spitting at the ground because I taste blood in the back of my throat, Carol pushes me and suddenly I’m in the water. I hear my headphones sizzle and the music go out, my brand new Walkman dead to the world, my brand new outfit definitely messed up now, and I can’t do anything about it because I’m still holding my aching balls the entire time.

Needless to say, when I pulled myself out of the water, my stomach still churning from the ball kick, I was livid. I mean, seeing red. Don’t know if it was the anger or the chlorine, but Carol was like encased in this red bubble when I looked at her, and I went ballistic. Carol saw it coming and took off running. I caught her in front of her house, grabbed her around the waist from behind and she was screaming bloody murder before I even got her off the ground. I dragged her back to the pool area, not really knowing what I was going to do.

I knew what I wanted to do; what I really wanted to do was slap her as hard as I could. I can admit that here, can’t I? I wanted to slap her until her nose bled then punch her in the stomach, right in the ovaries to be exact.

Mostly though, I just wanted her to have balls that I could kick. Big, nasty, hanging testicles that I could just ram my entire shin into, full force.

But there’s this thing in most guys—at least guys with moms like mine—that automatically leashes violent thoughts against women. Because whatever it is you want to do to that woman, you know in the back of your mind your mom’s going to do something twice as bad to you if you go through with it. I wanted to hurt her physically, but I couldn’t. God, I wanted to, more than I think I’ve ever wanted anything. But I just couldn’t do it. It’s like I had a fucking leash around my neck. I willed myself to flick her on her forehead at least, give her an Indian burn, something.

Instead, I just threw her in the pool, then when I realized that wasn’t enough to satisfy that red cloud around in my eyes, I turned and stormed off, back to my mom’s house.

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46. Interview with Robert “Bob” Hill: Part 1

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who is anthony stephens?

[Robert “Bob” Hill has been a resident of Tallahassee all forty-two years of his life and was a primary witness in the case against Earl Bishop. A personable, family man, Bob lives with his wife and daughter in the heart of Tallahassee, a few miles away from FSU’s campus. He sits now on his couch wearing a buttoned denim shirt tucked into his jeans with his nickname sewed into the breast, his hands covered in motor oil]

6 July 2011

– Please, call me Bob. Mr. Hill’s my pops. [Mr. Hill laughs loudly]

– ‘Bout the Bishop boy?

– Don’t mind discussin’ it none. Don’t know what I can tell you I ain’t already told the authorities back then though.

– Weren’t much to tell. I seen the black fella out there carryin’ on and then the house went up, so I wrote down his license plate and called 911.

– Was going to get something from my truck when I seen it. Hell of a scene, let me tell you. And I’ll admit, I ain’t the quickest on the draw. I wouldn’t never thought to look at Bishop’s license plate, or even wanted to if I hadn’t just finished up with America’s Most Wanted, but you know how it is with them shows.

– [Mr. Hill shakes his head and smiles] I tell you, I love that nonsense like ain’t nobody’s business. Used to hate it though. Never really had much a thing for TV at all, tell you the truth, ‘cept maybe some a them sitcoms when I’m bored. You see, Martha—my wife—she loves America’s Most Wanted. I used to think the whole idea a it was just as dumb as all them other reality shows they got on television nowadays. No sense at all, no goddamn sense to any a them, just a bunch of people runnin’ ‘round committin’ all types a adultery, doin’ thangs that’d be illegal for you and me but don’t show up on the police radar when it’s a bunch a TV and movie stars doin’ it.

– Like the ones my daughter’s always starin’ at all bug eyed and fixin’ herself up in the mirror to look like them girls, no goddamn sense. Got her runnin’ ‘round the house talkin’ ‘bout how everybody just found out this one fella’s a gay and now they all messin’ with him and it ain’t fair ‘cause he ain’t done nothin’ wrong and there’s all types a yellin’ and screamin’ goin’ on in that damn house they done packed twenty damn people in. No goddamn sense. That ain’t reality no way I know it.

– Hold a minute!

– Apologize, ain’t mean to startle ya. Just realized how I mighta sounded a little earlier. That ain’t how I meant, when I said “black fella” ‘bout Bishop. I ain’t mean black fella like how you might think I meant it. I ain’t tryin’ to offend nothin’ ‘round here. I know how sensitive people is nowadays with all this politically correct and incorrect nonsense they got going on. Don’t take to none of it myself. Bishop was dark, I ain’t, and ain’t nothin’ wrong with neither. Ain’t nothin’ any party’s to be ashamed of.

– I ain’t know his name when I saw him gettin’ in his car, did I? Never saw him before in my life. So I gotta call him that black fella. What else I’m s’posed to call him? The fella in the truck? How many people got trucks in Tallahassee? Damn near everybody in this goddamn city got some sort a pickup, I bet. And I know we got a whole lot of black fellas ‘round here too and, like I said, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. But I think it’d be mighty easier to catch a fella if I’d said the black fella in the truck with such and such license plate, ‘stead a just saying [Mr. Hill gets overly animated] ‘I reckon t’was some fella in a truck with such and such license plate.’ [Mr. Hill settles down, shaking his head] Wouldn’t’ve been much help at all if all I said was that, wouldn’t I?

– You know it. Would’ve had half the city out looking for any color type a fella. That’s a whole lot a fellas to look through. So, you see, right there. I cut that cop work right in half.

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45. Interview with Nicholas Freeman: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

Nicholas Freeman is the property manager of Forest Grove Apartments, the complex Anthony Stephens resided in during his time in Tallahassee. The office at Forest Grove is a two room suite with advertisements pasted on all the walls in the main room above two couches and a desk. Mr. Freeman is in his mid-thirties and sits behind this desk now, straightening his tie before folding his hands together and smiling. There is a bag full of mail next to the desk which Mr. Freeman glances at.

6 July 2011

– Tenant mail. [Mr. Freeman chuckles] Was just about to go put it in their boxes before you came in.

– Yes, it’s part of the job.

– This complex is owned by the umbrella company CampusPad Management, so they set the rules. I have nothing to do with that part of operations.

– We used to ask the postal workers if they could just put the mail in the slots themselves, but then we began receiving complaints about misplaced letters, mail sitting on the ground in the mail room, just a big hassle overall. And I don’t blame the postal workers; they have one hell of a job to do. It’s just—a few years ago the higher-ups at regional decided it would be best if the property offices received a daily bag containing the entire complex’s mail and office staff could put it in the boxes themselves. Though I can’t say I was too happy about this decision, it’s part of the job so I deal with it.

– Well—[Mr. Freeman shrugs, then leans in and lowers his voice a bit] I will say though, the same people who made the decision also decided, around the same time, that they were going to cut the entire CampusPad Tallahassee staff by twenty-five percent, which amounted to one less person in each office of every complex in the city. They said it was temporary. [Mr. Freeman shakes his head, smiling grimly] That was about five years ago. At our property, there is now only me and one leasing consultant, Kristina, in the next room. [Mr. Freeman indicates the room adjacent to his office, where a bright-faced Asian woman waves and smiles] We both work six days a week, and one of our duties during those hectic work weeks is to put away the mail. [Mr. Freeman leans back and begins picking at his nails] There’s a bit of an upside, though. After a while of doing it, I noticed that people receive some pretty interesting stuff.

– All types of mail in the tenant’s boxes. And I’m not going to lie, I look through it. I don’t open anything, nothing like that. And I didn’t pay attention at first. But then I realized it’s fairly entertaining and it makes the time go by faster.

– No. It’s perfectly legal as long as I don’t open anything. Like I said, I’m just looking. I can level with you, right?

– Okay, example: apartment 6H, a man named Schumacher, he has a subscription to Playboy, Hustler and—get this—Playgirl. [Mr. Freeman pauses and chuckles] Playboy and Playgirl both.

– Last year had these three guys—Easton, Rodriguez, can’t remember the third guy’s name but I know the Easton ones first name was Sean, he used to give me the rent check and pick up his magazines—who had subscriptions to what seemed like every video game magazine on the planet. I mean, I couldn’t even put their mail in the box half the time, I’d have to leave a note in the box for them to come in here and pick it up. And there’s this other young man who lives in 3B now—where your Anthony Stephens used to live actually—who gets an envelope every two weeks filled with cash. There’s never a return address on it either.

– Odd, isn’t it? I’ll hold each letter up to the light and see a stack of hundreds in there and wonder if he’s never heard of Western Union. Ridiculous.

– I want to reiterate: I’m not doing anything wrong, I just look at it. I don’t open anything, touch anything, nothing. And sometimes it becomes advantageous to the corporation when I do. For instance, getting on the subject of Mr. Stephens, I remember specifically how I caught on to his act.

– Yeah, I remember him perfectly. I was putting the mail away one day and I saw a change of address confirmation form made out to his apartment, 3B.

– You know the forms. If you go online and change the address you want your mail delivered to, they forward all your mail to that new address. But they send a confirmation notice to you first, just to make sure it’s really you making the request. Stephens got a confirmation, said that his mail would immediately be forwarded to a P.O. Box in—Boca, I believe it was. So I put it in his box and didn’t think too much about it until I got back to the office. Then I started running it all over in my head like, well, why would Stephens change his address?

– It was only spring back then, see? This is a college town, with a set schedule. Leases aren’t up until August, the end of the summer semester. And he hadn’t notified us of anything. I brushed it off anyways, thinking that it was nothing. Until I went to put mail in the boxes the next day and checked his box just to see, and the notice was gone. So, he checked his mail. Then later, I noticed that there was no mail for Stephens anymore. Nothing. Not even one of those ad catalogues that everybody throws away as soon as they get them.

– So, a week before rent is due, I decide to go up and knock on Stephens’ door to hand-deliver his bill to him. Perfectly legal to do that. But nobody answers his door. I’m not allowed to enter the apartment without his permission or three days notice, so I taped his bill to the door, went back down to the office and get a NTE—that’s Notice to Enter—went back up and taped that to the door as well.

– I passed by the next day and both the bill and the notice were still there. When I entered the apartment a couple days after that, the furniture was the only thing left. Seems he’d cleared out what he could carry and left everything else behind.

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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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43. Tallahassee Democrat Excerpt

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Two Found Dead in Abandoned House Fire, Officials Suspect Arson

By Andrea F. Tyler, Tallahassee Democrat Reporter

May 12, 2008

TALLAHASSEE — A fire at an abandoned residence near Old Bainbridge Road reportedly claimed the lives of two individuals last night.

The fire — which raged for over an hour before firefighters were able to get it under control — is believed to be the result of arson, says Chief Fire Investigator Jarvis Glassner.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating whether the act was committed by the deceased or an outside party. Officials did not say whether they had identified any suspects, but are asking anybody with any information on the incident to come forward.

The fire was set on the first floor of the two story house, and an accelerant was used, Mr. Glassner said, most likely gasoline. The blaze weakened the structure of the house, though it did not collapse.

Autopsies of the deceased are scheduled for later today, at which point officials will determine exact cause of death and potential identities.

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42. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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November 5 2003

Morning: 6 out of 10

Afternoon: 4 out of10

Evening: 3 out of 10

What do I think I look like to other people in society?

You really want me to answer that?

Alright. You say it’ll give me some insight into my self-perception and what I think about the world in general. It’s a hard question to answer though.

I used to think I was complicated. I used to think I was too complicated, that I needed things to mellow out my mind. I used to think about things a lot, everything, way too much. Just overthinking the crap out of stuff.

I still do, I guess, but it’s not as uncontrollable.

Before it was like, if something bothered me and it managed to establish itself in my head as “something that’s bothering me,” I couldn’t get away from it. Not without help at least. Weed did it at first. Then that doctor misdiagnosed my mom and let her think she was okay, gave her all that fucking medicine that just made her worse. And when the cancer took her and we got involved in that lawsuit—I just started popping a few pills whenever things got too intense. Whatever I could get my hands on. And with the people I chilled with, there was a lot I could get my hands on too: Xany, syrup, a little E, dropped some tabs once or twice (not a good experience). Then I added alcohol to the mix and things got a little too crazy too quickly for a while.

I guess everything just sort of led up to that night on US1, which I admit was retarded on my part, no matter what the hell I was going through. The head-on collision I told everybody was an accident but was really just me being an idiot.

I don’t think I was fooling anybody anyways. They knew. I was trying to kill myself that night.

But they—you—probably all think it’s because I was depressed or something.

And yeah I was depressed, I admit that. But that’s not why I did it.

I tried to kill myself because I was tired.

I don’t mean some like ethereal shit either, like when people start talking about how their souls are tired of being torn into pieces and all that sappy All My Children crap.

I mean, I was physically tired. Like, exhausted, from all the shit I had taken that night.

And I also knew that it didn’t really matter if I was tired or not, I wasn’t going to stop. I was addicted, to anything that’d make me numb, and if I didn’t do something about it right then I knew I was going to get up the next day and do it all over again because I had to, I was compelled to.

But I was just so fucking tired and I just wanted to go to bed. I just wanted to fucking sleep. You mix that type of exhaustion with pills, a forty of O.E. and an ounce of chronic and see how easy it is for you to just let go of the steering wheel.

The way I felt that night, I planned on pressing the gas until something forced me to get out of the car.

When I woke up in the hospital and asked about the driver of the other car, an SUV, the doctors told me he came out with a couple of bruises, nothing serious. Scraped elbow and a black eye from the airbag.

In a great show of justice, I received the bulk of injuries: two cracked ribs, shattered knee, dislocated shoulder, whiplash. Two separate surgeries, weeks in bed, another couple of months of rehab on my knee and a seriously embarrassing court proceeding.

The guy I hit was a UM student and he had daddy’s endless bank account and full coverage car insurance so he didn’t push too hard in court. I got off clean really, if you consider how much junk they found in my system that night. Six months’ probation, skyrocketed car insurance, mandatory drug and mental counseling and now I’m here, in the living room of my mom’s house, sans my mom, writing in a journal and trying to “sort myself out.” according to Doc Silver, recommended by Dr. Stewart, my rehab coach.

I guess she saw something in me, something besides my knee that needed therapy. I can’t say she was wrong. I can’t say anything.

Doc Silver wants me to answer that question—what I look like to the world—knowing everything I know about myself, knowing all the stupid shit I’ve done, knowing how many people I looked in the face when they tried to tell me about my “potential” and responded with—literally, so many times—“fuck you.”

I’ll tell you what I think I look like to people.

A joke.

That’s what I look like. A fucking joke. And I can’t blame them for thinking that, really. If I saw me in public, I’d think the same damn thing. Laugh and keep walking.

And it’s hard to get rid of that image once it’s there, let me tell you. Really, really hard.

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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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40. Interview with David Lerner: Part 4

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15 July 2011

– Alright. I’ll tell you and you can figure it out, but I don’t want no part in it after this. Ok?

– I’m serious bro. I don’t want any cops knocking on my door tomorrow asking me more questions.

– Uh…yeah. Whatever, it happened like this. I had just come home from being out with Patty earlier that night—about a week before Earl did whatever they say he did. It was a Tuesday, I think. Or a Wednesday. Doesn’t matter. I was in my living room drinking a beer, I remember, and watching Sportscenter, all pissed off because like, all this drama—[1]

– Sorry again, bro. Where was I?

– Oh yeah, so I’m sitting in my living room with a beer, trying to just relax and catch the highlights, when I hear all this noise from Earl’s next door.

– Well, it started out real quiet so I don’t even know how long it was going on. I thought it was the TV at first, you know how Sportscenter gets, all the flashes and crowds cheering and the theme song and all that. And I had it like blasting too because I wanted to act like I could do whatever I wanted because Patty had pissed me off so bad. So the TV’s blasting and I’m pissed off and all of a sudden I hear a lot more than just talking from over there.

– I mean, whoever it was at Earl’s, they were going at it. I mean, like, me and Patty yell, but not like that. And me, I was even more mad. Because like, I don’t know—to me it sounded kind of like really loud sex. It might have been fighting, I don’t know. But that night, I was all pissed off at Patty and then I hear two people yelling next door, that’s the first thing I think is they’re fucking. Earl’d probably gone out and gotten a couple of drinks in him, brought his chick home, and now they were banging each other’s brains out. And I’m in my apartment next door, tipsy and horny, watching Sportscenter when I should be banging my girl’s brains out too, but she’s all mad at me over some bullshit so I’ve got to sit in this apartment by myself.

– I remember that night perfectly even now, that’s how pissed off I was. Can’t believe I married the bitch.

– Fuck it all. I didn’t ask any questions, I just turned the TV volume as loud as it could go and soon all the yelling stopped, and that’s the last I heard of anything.


[1] Mr. Lerner goes on to explain how disappointing this date night with the future Mrs. Lerner ended up being.

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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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37. Interview with David Lerner: Part 3

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15 July 2011

– Really sorry about that, man. Sometimes I start talking and I just get all involved and—pretty bad habit, I know.

Ex-wife, bro. Soon-to-be-ex-wife.

– Yeah. I met Patty at that apartment. Shit was fun back then, back when college was all I had to think about. I met a lot of people at that apartment actually. But this dude, Earl, nobody ever really saw much of him. Don’t know if it was because he was busy with school or whatever. Don’t even know if the dude was in school. I mean, I think he was. I remember his truck had a FSU parking decal on it, could’ve been expired though. I never saw him on campus, and he was so antisocial at the apartment, I’ll be honest, I probably couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup if you stuck a bunch of other black dudes in it.

– I’m not racist at all, by the way, don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t think, like, all black people look alike or nothing. My boy Jason, if he was standing in a group of black dudes, I’d be able to find him in like half a second. And Dwight, kind of hard to miss that giant motherfucker.

– It’s just, that’s how little I saw this dude, Earl. Couldn’t recognize his face, not until after the news broke about all that stuff he’d done and his picture was, like, plastered all over TV. He was easy to recognize then.

– Real sketchy, that whole thing. I think he might have been framed actually, wouldn’t put it past Tallahassee P.D. Such a B.S. city. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. The legal process, it’s a joke over there. Everywhere actually.It’s like, everything’s such a big effing deal because everybody’s so damn bored with their jobs or something. You know?

– I never asked Earl any questions. Like I said, I try not to get involved in stuff that doesn’t involve me like, I mind my own business and I expect everybody else to do the same, pretty much.

– Yeah, some cops came over once, after everything happened, asked me if I knew anything about Earl or heard anything suspicious around the time he did what they say he did. I told them I didn’t know nothing, and that was the truth.

– I mean—it was mostly the truth.

– Dude, are you sure this isn’t going to, like, get back to the team? I mean, it was a long time ago so I don’t think it could mess anything up right now or nothing but, you know, I just don’t want to make things harder for my lawyer.

– Alright. I mean, I did tell the cops most of it though. I didn’t, like, lie to them or nothing. Just didn’t tell them the whole truth. Because, I mean, the whole truth is it was my junior year, second year as a starter. Bitching season, bro. My stats were, like, insane: 21.5 points, 2.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, ACC Player of the Year, All-ACC First Team. [Mr. Lerner shakes his head wistfully] I miss that season, man. I mean, the pros are awesome, but everybody’s a superstar here. I’m getting, like, shit playing time out here right now. I was king in college.

– Yeah, the cops were asking questions. But we’d just barely dropped out of the tournament like a month and a half earlier and I’d just declared and I was checking my projections like every hour, you know? How deep the draft would be that year, all that. Plus FSU had just gotten in all that trouble with that cheating scandal and players were getting suspended left and right and, you know—my apartment wasn’t always clean. Some of my boys used to come through and, you know, they’d leave sometimes and forget to take all their shit and some of that shit could’ve gotten me in serious—whatever. There was just a lot of reasons why I really didn’t want to get involved in any legal-type stuff. And, whatever, it was mostly the truth. Because I don’t know what I heard that night. I don’t know, and I really don’t want to.

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36. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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September 1 2003 (continued)

What I remember about my parents being together doesn’t have anything in common with that picture of my mom and dad.

In fact what I remember about my dad is so far from the image that picture creates that I’m starting to think the photo was a fake. Or that the guy in the picture wasn’t really my dad but some other dude pretending to be my dad.

The last clear memory I have of my father is him walking into my room one day, around the time I was about to start middle school, and just staring at me.

I was watching TV and he stood in the doorway looking at me for this awkwardly long period of time; like, that point where you have to look away and wiggle around because the person staring at you is starting to creep you out, like they’re going to kill you or just freak out and start screaming at any moment.

He just stood there staring at me, like he was in a trance or something, and finally I said what? What is it?

He kept staring at me for a second longer then dropped his head, said nothing, then another long pause before he said, quietly, I just wondered… and that was it.

My dad never acted like that before, from what I can remember. He barely said two words to me before that day, just used to shuffle my hair around and pat me on the back every once in a while. I remember that. That was our affection.

So at this point I’m like, whoa, what the hell’s going on. I waited and he didn’t say anything for a while and finally he just shook his head and said never mind then walked away.

The next day I came home from school and all the blinds in the house were drawn and my mom was lying on the couch with a pillow over her head. I asked her what happened and she blubbered a little bit and then I walked into her bedroom and saw my dad’s side of the closet was cleared out.

That’s the last time I heard from my father. The last two words he ever said to me: never mind.

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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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34. Interview with David Lerner: Part 2

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15 July 2011

– Sorry, I’m rambling. It’s the divorce. It’s got me all heated still. I’m so tired and like—angry all the time now. I used to be so happy. I will be so happy, when all this shit is over with.

– The divorce I mean, not this. This is actually a break, I think. It’s good to reminisce sometimes. Remember how things were before life got all—complicated, you know?

– Yeah, so, the day I met Earl he was out at the pool and Patty was being a bitch and I looked at Earl and pointed at Patty and said “you believe this broad?” And I expected Earl to kind of laugh in that nervous way people do when they’re—I don’t know. Nervous. You know what I’m talking about. That “heh heh” chuckle to kind of make the person think you’re not uncomfortable when you really are and then that eye shift where you look anywhere that isn’t at the person whose making you feel uncomfortable. I know, I do it, you do it, you’d have to be like, disconnected from reality or just like, really a cocky dickhead to not do it every once in a while. Like, see, my thing is, I do it every time a bum comes up and asks me for a quarter, smelling like old beer and shit. I don’t want to be mean when I see them because like—I don’t know. Nobody knows what their situation is. But holy shit, it’s like every single time I go to the gas station, dude.

– Anyways, I’m just having a little bit of fun that day, right? Puffing my chest out a little, being all manly, and I look at Earl and point at Patty, and Earl just sits there. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t smile, just looks at me, then stares at Patty for like a whole ten seconds, then shakes his head and leaves. Just gets up and walks away. Fucking traitor, bro. No support. So Patty gave me this bitchy look while I was laughing and pointing at her and—[1]


[1] Mr. Lerner goes on to explain how he managed to convince Mrs. Lerner to go on a date with him.

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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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31. Interview with David Lerner: Part 1

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

David Lerner is currently a backup shooting guard for the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic basketball team. Mr. Lerner has most recently been involved in legal and NBA controversies concerning both divorce proceedings and a marijuana possession charge incurred May 2011, which resulted in his suspension for the first ten games of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season. Mr. Lerner was the neighbor of Earl Bishop during his time at Florida State University.

15 July 2011

– Yeah, I remember Earl. I didn’t really know him, though. I mean, I knew him, but I didn’t know the dude, you know?

– He was, I don’t know, total—pretty odd. Weird dude. Not violent or nothing, just real quiet and—he looked kind of lonely I guess. It was always real quiet over there in his apartment. Sometimes I wouldn’t see him around for weeks and there wouldn’t be a sound from his place and I’d wonder if he moved out or something. But then I’d see him sitting outside one day, smoking a cigarette and you could hear somebody else rattling around inside his crib, so I’m guessing he had, like, friends and shit. But most of the time he was like—silent. Except near the end. There was a lot of racket over there in the end, those last couple of weeks before the cops picked him up, especially during the day. Sometimes at night, like that one night when I came home from that date with Patty. Whole lot of noise then. First time I met Earl was the same day I met Patty actually—my bad, Patty’s my wife. Soon-to-be-ex-wife, you want to get technical about shit.

– Pretty funny story there; Earl was actually there that day.

– The day I met Patty. He was sitting out by the pool that day, which was weird because it was like, one of the only times I ever saw the dude out.

– Usually he smoked outside his apartment for like five minutes here and there. Otherwise it was like, in and out, you never saw the dude. But he was out at the pool that day, smoking and staring at the sky. I remember because I bummed a menthol from him and then I saw Patty and—I mean—

– No, I just—this isn’t going to be some like, national coverage type shit is it?

– Like, the team’s not going to end up with a copy of this are they?

– I’m just saying. Because I don’t smoke or nothing. Now, I mean. I mean, I never smoked a lot or nothing back then and I don’t smoke at all anymore, with my contract and all, and the lawyers and stuff. Not cigarettes at least. [Mr. Lerner chuckles quickly then gets serious] That’s a joke.

– Yeah, whatever, you know—whatever, I introduced myself to Earl and he seemed like a decent dude. I had this red nosed pit back then, real beauty. She was a bitch, but I named her King anyways because she looked like a King so whatever. King liked Earl, I remember that. But King liked everybody, even Patty when I met her, and she was a total cunt from the get go. Lying out tanning on the pool chairs with one of her friends and all like, prissy—[1]


[1] Mr. Lerner proceeds to go on a tangent, explaining the initial meeting between him and his estranged wife, Patricia Lerner (nee Naylor).

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30. Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

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September 1 2003

Morning: 2 out of 10

Afternoon: 3 out of10

Evening: 2 out of 10

I went through my mom’s stuff today. First time since she passed. I found a picture of my dad in a box full of photos, the only picture I’ve seen of him since the day after he left and my mom burned everything he’d left behind in a barbecue pit we keep in the backyard. The picture was jarring, to say the least. Made me realize the quasi-image of him I’ve had in my head for years now is not my dad but some false mental projection of him that I created for some reason. I mean, it was weird seeing his face because I haven’t really had a full memory of that at all. Once I saw the picture though, it was like it filled some gap, and then I kind of wondered if there had ever been a gap to begin with or if I’d just let myself believe there was one. Made me lightheaded as shit looking at it, like somebody’d just implanted a memory in my head or something. Like in The Matrix when they’re uploading data into Neo’s brain so he can learn how to do Kung Fu and jump buildings and shit, the way he looked when they put that first program in his head, I feel like I must of made that face when I looked at the picture of my dad. Wide eyed and frowning but not mad, just confused like “…whoa.”

Basically, the discrepancies are this: my dad wasn’t as tall as I thought he was. He was actually pretty short. And skinny, really skinny, not big and burly like I remembered. My mom was smaller than him in the picture, but not by much. In the picture they’re eating cake and they’ve both got frosting on their noses and they’re laughing. I don’t know who took the picture, but whoever it was they caught something I didn’t even know existed: my mom and dad happy with each other. I can’t tell whether the picture helped my state of mind or not. I’ve been under the impression for most of my life that my parents hated each other every moment of every day since they met which—from what I gather—was right before they gave birth to me. I’d always thought that maybe they were just drawn together by obligation and some sick, masochistic urge to be around each other. But they looked pretty damn happy in that picture. I mean, like, really happy. It’s funny how drastically things can change sometimes.

Actually, what am I talking about? It’s not funny. That shit isn’t funny at all. It sucks. It really fucking sucks.

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29. Recovered From Anthony Stephens’ Mood journal

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Who Is Anthony Stephens?

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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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