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August 18, 2005
herBRIEFCASE sitting on the, once glassy, empty, defense table brought back a relevance to why David was there.
Erica’s beautiful presence gave him purpose again. Her gray suit with a white ruffled shirt, complimented her flawless tan skin. She turned and looked into David’s eyes with a sense of urgency. She shook her head. Her long golden brown hair was pulled into a bun.
David was confused.
“Er, what are you doing here?”
“How do you expect to win this case without representation?” She barked in a whisper.
“I wasn’t planning to win this.”
Her brow wrinkled. Her bark mellowed into an exasperated soothing whisper. “What craziness are you talking now, Sketch?”
Sketch is what she called David because of his “artistic views.” He could, literally, make stories up from nothing. The way he would do so, reminded her of an artist who would sketch together a picture.
He would call her Er—pronounced air—because she was a breath of fresh air after the biggest tragedy in his life.
Like air, he wouldn’t know what to do without her. She was that important to him.
“Do you see the way I look, Er?”
“Yes, I do see. What happened, you look—“
“Homeless? Yeah, that’s about right. He took everything from me.”
“So you think jail is the answer?”
“I don’t know, Er. I was kinda hoping so. Not a bad option, I guess.”
The bailiff spoke and it sent a magnetic-like dizzy pulse through David’s body. “All rise for the honorable Judge Genny Coleman.”
Nothing good has come to David via court. As the Judge entered the courtroom, the room filled with silence. Judge Coleman was an older woman who looked a lot younger than she actually was. She had medium length brown hair with blue eyes. She showed a stern expression on her face as she took her seat at the bench. After her permission, the courtroom was seated.
Ruffling through the paper work she said, “So this is the case of the people vs Mr. David Michael Summers—I’m sorry, who is this?”
Her eyes were on Erica.
“Your honor, my name is Erica Wilkinson. I’m going to represent Mr. David Michael Summers—I’d like to request a continuance so that I can gather the needed information.”
The Judge looked into her papers and in an annoyed manner she mumbled, “So, this all was a complete waste of my time. It’s only fair. Request granted. Please, let’s get it together and regroup here same time tomorrow.”
And just like that, court was dismissed.
As they exited, Erica couldn’t keep her eyes off of David.
“I knew things were bad, but geeze David. What the heck happened to you?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Well you’re gonna have to fill in the blanks anyway tonight, so you may as well think about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s the way I operate Sketch. I get all the facts, insignificant or not. I want to make sure I have the right view.”
As they exited the courthouse, the press stood stagnant until they caught a glimpse of David and Erica.
“Hey, let’s get you cleaned up and find a place to crash,” Erica said, “we have a lot of work to get done.”
With the media trailing closely behind them, they took a cab to the Marriot on the east side of Norristown.
“Wow, how did your life get to this? Your mom was rich!” Erica asked.
“She’s dead, now.”
“Your dad is rich. What about him?”
“What about him? I don’t know, I certainly didn’t ask for this.”
“Well you’re gonna have to figure out how to tell me something. I need info.”
“Well, I don’t know where to start.”
“Tell me as if you are telling a story—like you used to tell me—start from the top. How did you get caught in this robbery?”
“I needed money for a college composition class. But, what happened that night ended up changing my life forever.”
I remember it being a Saturday, December 14th of 2002. It was a cold day in Philadelphia. The day before the robbery, I called the guys to do some street work with them to earn a little cash for my writing classes.
But I remember the assignment, this time, was something totally different than usual. Usually I wasn’t aware of what my mission was and where my money is coming from. This time though, it seemed like through talking to my friend Ronnie, there was more to this assignment than before.
He told me to meet him on 10th and Tasker St. on Saturday in South Philly. That intersection is where my life would change forever.
I was told that a meeting would take place to receive instruction as to where, when, and how I could receive my assignment and money.
I wondered why I was doing this. Was it worth it? It felt entirely too fishy. I should have listened to my instincts, which were telling me that this involvement was endangering everything I was working to accomplish. All it would have taken is for my name to get tangled up in controversy and leaked to the authorities and I was finished.
All of which has happened since. But at the time, I had a decision to make—I was at the crossroads—and I made the wrong turn.
We all sat in an open abandoned building. I was at a table with eight other guys, including my friend, Ronnie. It wasn't clear exactly what was going on. I couldn't put a finger on who would be running the whole operation, either. Ronnie was the one I went to for money, and he invited me here, so I figured he would be the one.
The only lighting in the room was a small lamp that hung loosely from the roof attached to an extension cord. The table was old and rickety. I took notice that half the guys sitting around the table seemed nervous. The rest were stone-faced.
After ten minutes or so, a Hispanic fellow walked into the room. He was medium height with dark wavy close cropped hair. His facial features were all I could see. His face was distinct enough, that I could pick it out a hundred years from now without ever seeing his face again.
He looked mean.
He sat at the head of the table, opened a folder and began to speak saying:
"Thank you for being on time, which is what starts a mission off successfully—gracias. We will need this sort of performance from you tomorrow.”
He swiveled back and forth in his chair before saying, “Now, a few of you are here for money. At least two of you are here for revenge.”
He paused, got up from his chair, and started his way towards my side of the table. “Some of you are here for both,” Then looking at me he said, “and one of you has no clue what you are here for."
I remember thinking to myself, ‘I know that I’m here for the money, but other than that, I know nothing else.'
I really needed the money so I could take more classes. Typically, I would get money from my friend Ronnie and he would hand me money hand-to-hand. I knew the money possibly had some illegal ties, but it was out of sight, out of mind. This particular time, however, he called me to that meeting and there I sat.
The Hispanic fellow continued to talk revealing his name as Carlos Santiago.
He continued, “I know that some of you are regulars in my operations and for some of you, this is the first but, what I am sure of is none of you know what you are getting into right now and it’s better off that way. Just do what you are told, at the specific time you are told and each and every one of you will get what you want."
As he finished a complete circling around the table, he pulled a paper from his folder. As he spoke, his eyes were buried into the paper.
"There is a man, who lives on the Main Line in Wayne, Pennsylvania. What we plan to do, ultimately, is not divulged to you. You are just a worker. Just know that afterwards, you will all get your cut, and we’ll all move on with life."
Erica stopped David’s story. “Wait, he said that?”
David looked at Erica, who looked very skeptical about what he was saying.
“OK, Sketch, cause now is not the time to lie to me.”
“Are you going to listen to my story? Or are you going to continue to doubt me?”
“Go ahead, Sketch.”
David continued his story:
Carlos walked around the table and sat a sheet of paper in front of me and the four nervous guys. He told us we weren't to look at the next person’s instructions ever. He said it would ruin the plan. If we ruin the plan, would have to be “dealt with.” He also passed out little black pagers. He told us that if we needed to bail on the mission, there was a red button on the pager we were to push. He told us bailing wasn't always a bad thing.
“There are good bails, and bad bails. If you are scared and don’t want to do it anymore and you hit this bail button, that is a bad bail. If you decide what you are doing is against your will, bad bail. If you are late, don’t show, get sick, get lost, lose material, lose heart or merchandise, that is a bad bail!”
A nervous man raised his hand just to be ignored by Carlos, “If you want to quit now—bad bail.”
The man’s hand went down.
“Basically, if the plan is in jeopardy, in no fault of your own, then you have the right to bail. You have two choices, either finish the assignment successfully or escape successfully. If you bail, you don't get paid and if we get caught, you get dealt with.”
I remember getting up too late and ruining the whole assignment.
“Oh ok. So you didn’t know what you were getting into?” Erica asked as they checked into the hotel.
“No, I didn’t.”
“And you felt obligated to continue, out of fear more so than selfishness?”
“Yea, I guess you can say that.”
“Well then that is a good start. Why did you run late? Tell me about that—I’ll need dates too.”
“Umm—November? I believe it was November…”
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