The Slave Quarters
Chapter 14: Interrogations
By Rock Kitaro
I’m really beginning to hate Augusta, Georgia.
Knowing that Jamar and O’Shea are locked up in a holding cell does very little to assuage my angst. And oh look! Here comes Jessica and Leanne. It’s five past nine so I guess I should’ve expected them. But still, I could’ve used another five minutes to come up with more plausible lies.
Again, I’m sitting at the vacant desk, this time with an ice pack to my face. My blazer is sprinkled with spots from being laid out in the middle of the road. O’Shea’s punch was strong, but he lacked power. He more so pushed me down, than hit me. If not for my previous injuries I could’ve taken it like a boss instead of getting carried off like a…
“Cloud! Oh my god! What were you thinking?” Leanne gawks.
The ladies lean in to examine the swelling. They’re upset, understandably so. I don’t know what they heard, so I’m not sure what exactly to apologize for. Jessica appears well rested while Leanne looks a couple years younger, more vibrant with color in her cheeks.
“Did you really go to the slave quarters by yourself? In the middle of the night?” Jessica asks.
I nod and for some reason smirk at the same time.
“You’re an idiot! You know that? I read the report. Someone threw you out of freaking window? You could have been killed!” Leanne snaps.
I’m still smiling.
“This is serious, Cloud,” Jessica tells me.
I’m just about to speak up but I see Griffin and Agent Dixon approaching.
“Don’t give him too much grief.” Griffin says in good cheer. “At least that gives us two alibis Jacory, aka J-Pooy now has to account for.”
“Yeah, Assuming he’s our guy.” I let slip.
“What?” Griffin asks.
“Nothin. But, hey! Thanks again for saving my ass back there. I appreciate it.”
“You got it, Cloud! You and I are like Shaq and Kobe. We got each others back!”
“Yeah, well Chomsky’s gonna throw a natural fit when he finds out about this. Honestly, what were you thinking? No back up!? No service weapon!? Freaking idiot!” Leanne says as she continues to lay in.
Agent Dixon gives me a suspicious look as if he could tell I’m holding something back. I resolve to say nothing in my defense. Whatever they’re thinking, it’s best to just let them run with it. I rather do that than mention something that could come back to bite me in the ass.
“It’s insane out there.” Jessica frets. “I think it’s going to get worse. Jacory just came in with his father and their attorney. They’re meeting with one of the captains.”
“Good! Just put me in a room with him and I’ll wrap this up,” says a determined Griffin before he strolls off toward the elevator lobby.
Dixon goes with him. I try to follow but Jessica yanks on my arm, sending a scorching pain down the left side of my body. She looks me square in the eye, casting a spell by which I’m left speechless under her control.
“Talk to me. What’s going on?” she whispers.
God…how can I deny those brown eyes? I look at Leanne. She too, is waiting.
“Leanne, was Griffin with you all night?” I ask as politely as I could.
Just like that, Leanne gushes with a haughty smile. It’s like she can’t wait to spill the beans, but of course, she wants me to work for it. “Cloud! That’s none of your business. Geez!”
“Talk to us! What’s going on?” Jessica urges.
“You guys…” I begin with a heavy sigh. “I don’t think Jacory is the man we’re looking for.”
Leanne claps. “I fucking knew it! I knew you were going to say that. Why? ‘Cause you didn’t figure it out first?”
My lips tighten. Why did I even bother?
Jessica adds, “Cloud, we got this guy on camera a few miles from where KeNedra was picked up by paramedics. He can’t account for the time of the abduction and he has a history of sexual abuse. Also, forensics found blood and dirt in his truck. They haven’t connected it to the victims yet but it’s only a matter of time. We’re just waiting on DNA results. So tell us, why don’t you think he’s our guy?”
Jessica…she’s not raising her voice or frowning, but I can tell she’s just as insulted as Leanne. Just then, the doors to the bullpen open up with a loud wooden creak. The clamor of conversations blare in. A stern Dixon and Griffin are leading an entourage of grim faces, all of them ready to stand trial.
The short, bald, and stocky Jacory “J-Poopy” Godchaux isn’t wearing handcuffs. He’s dressed in a respectable neutral tone suit behind his flashier father. The popular emcee preacher, Tavvy Godchaux is dressed in a loud purple three-piece suit with matching gator skin boots. Next to him is their estimable defense attorney/civil rights activist, Malachi Sanders Esq. Malachi is dark, lean, and deceptively young with a clean shave and thick-framed glasses. His tall frame and long dreadlocks make him standout, even amongst the grape looking Tavvy.
I’m sizing Jacory up. He lacks confidence, as if he’s already been sentenced to death.
“You want to know why I think he’s not our guy?” I tell the ladies. “Because there’s no way he could’ve taken me in a fight.”
Within the hour, Jacory, his father Tavvy, and Malachi have gone through the formalities, the litigation, the waivers, and affidavits, before stationing themselves in the largest interrogation room. Detective Mark Griffin, Agent Jared Dixon and Agent Jessica Arroyo run point in the questioning. Cameras record from an upper corner and there’s a court stenographer seated off to the side to make a transcript of the dialogue.
Everyone in the 3rd floor conference room waits in suspense. This was where the board of commissioners met on a monthly basis. It was large enough to seat fifty, boasting a buffet table, a projection screen, and a magnificent window view of the Savannah River.
The Chief of Police, his closest deputies and almost every captain and detective in the Investigation Division were seated around the crescent shaped boardroom table. They said the mayor was planning to stop by, but with the protesting going on outside, he decided to hold up in City Hall.
I’m sitting on the end of the table with Leanne by my right. She reeks of cologne. I don’t want to notice but I do. All eyes are on the 52-inch screen monitor. It shows us the feed of the interrogation room.
Griffin…Look at him, standing there all cocky. If he shows even the slightest hint of prejudice, I have no doubt Malachi will jump all over it like a shark drawn to the scent of blood.
Jessica Arroyo is a trained FBI agent and an expert behavior analyst. She’s survived years of domestic abuse and knows the meaning of true grit. I’m counting on you. Poke holes. Do your duty but don’t be persistent on that which isn’t making sense. If the pieces don’t fit, there’s a reason why they don’t fit. Trust your instincts. You’re brilliant, even if you’re too modest to admit it. You’re my equal, Jessica. Make me proud.
Malachi begins in a smooth eloquent tone. “I’d like to state for the record that my client Mr. Jacory Godchaux has come here of his own volition in cooperation with the local authorities.”
“There’s no need for formalities, Mr. Sanders. You don’t see anyone from the D.A.’s office, do you? This isn’t a deposition but an inquisition pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” Agent Dixon points out.
“An investigation in which my client is the sole suspect,” Malachi states.
“Not a suspect. A person of interest,” Griffin clarifies.
Malachi scoffs, “That’s not what was said in the press conference last night. Jacory was painted as the primary suspect. It’s the words of the police chief that incited the protests. In so many words it was replete with hate speech and inflammatory implications. He provoked the black community to ‘stay in their lane’. I’m not the one calling for his resignation, but one can sympathize. For the gross act of negligence pertaining to the butchering and unholy manifestation of sexual predation that precipitated under his jurisdiction…that’s why I’m here.”
Damn… Malachi exudes discipline and self-control. Griffin’s out of his league.
“Sir. My name is Jessica Arroyo. I’m with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. I can state for the record and provide documentation of our attempts to get in touch with Jacory well before the end of business hours yesterday. It was Mr. Tavvy Godchaux who withheld information on his whereabouts. Now had he produced himself and cooperated with the police yesterday, the violence today may not have taken place. In fact, it’s quite possible Mr. Jacory could’ve been cleared of any and all suspicion in a matter of hours.”
Malachi nods. “Ma’am, you underestimate the brewing contempt of the people. Whether you had a suspect or not, I promise it wouldn’t have been enough to conciliate the righteous indignation of the African-American community. Six girls, that’s six women who were raped, molested, and mutilated in slave quarters of all places. This is an abomination, a silent and systematic increase of violence against our sisters of color. By the end of the day, Augusta, Georgia will be ground zero for every reverend, activist, special interest group and able student body leader in the country.”
“Yeah, you’d like that wouldn’t you,” Griffin says, flashing his temper.
Tavvy points his finger, his gold watch glistening in the light. “I see it in his eyes. See! There! That is pure unadulterated hate! You intend to slap my son in a cell for a crime he did not commit.”
“Why don’t we stick to the facts, gentlemen?” Jessica says. “Mr. Jacory, do you know why you’re here?”
Jacory wipes his weary eyes. He’s wearing the same orange contact lenses from his mug shots. “Yes ma’am,” He says with an air of humility.
“Tell us why you’re here?” Jessica instructs.
“Because ya’ll think I killed them girls. But that’s what you don’t understand, though. I’m sayin, I loved those girls. I would have never killed them.”
The conference room springs forth with life. The detectives are on the edge of their seat, salivating for a confession. My agitation grows. What’s Malachi thinking? Did he do no prep work at all? He should have advised his client to answer the questions and only the questions. Be succinct, damn it!
Malachi leans over to whisper into Jacory’s ear. Jacory puts his wrists on the table, his fingers clasped in humble dismay. Oh my god. My eyes widen in horror. I’ve seen this behavior before. He’s overcome by sorrow. A crushing guilt is bearing down on his shoulders. I can’t believe it.
He says, “Me and Alisha…We had sexual relations.”
Exclamations chime out. People are laughing and congratulating each other. Leanne’s the loudest. She shouts, “GOT HIM!” right in my frickin ear.
“Are you referring to Alisha Collier? The fifth victim we recovered on the Dickinson Plantation?” Jessica asks as she holds up a picture.
Jacory nods with teary eyes. “Also with Ashley Hunt, ma’am. They were my girlfriends.”
Everyone in the conference room celebrates. The laughing police chief has to settle them down.
“Are you saying you actively engaged in sexual intercouse with underage minors?” Jessica asks.
Jacory nods. “Yes ma’am.”
“But that’s all he’s guilty of,” Tavvy’s quick to point out.
“The hell he is!” Griffin barks. “What about the others? Samantha Fox? Denedra Harrell? Did you have sex with them?”
“No ma’am. I swear! I didn’t know them!”
“Counselor. You should do your client a favor and instruct him to confess to the whole truth. You’re already going down for the two murders. Why stop there?” Griffin taunts.
Jacory shoots out of his seat. “No sir! I NEVER KILLED ANYONE! I LOVED THEM! I would never!”
Jessica’s rattled. Her hand instinctively moves for the gun on her hip.
Griffin points, “You better sit your ass down.”
“Racists!” Tavvy shouts.
“Yeah, that card became null and void the moment your son confessed to statutory rape,” Dixon utters.
“Perhaps, its best we do have the ADA join us. I think we should begin discussing our options,” Malachi suggests.
Griffin hovers over and plants both hands on the table. “But first, you’re going to tell us everything.”
Jessica removes her hand from her gun and takes in a deep breath. While Griffin and Tavvy continue to bicker, she watches Jacory, examining, analyzing him. I see her. I’m willing to bet that as much as she wanted to believe Jacory was their man, her experience with murdering sociopaths told her that a killer of this nature wouldn’t just come forward to confess to only some of the crimes, especially when they ran the risk of getting pinned for all of them.
Like Jessica, I’m calmly sitting in my chair with my eyes glued to the screen while everyone else gloats about. I conclude that Jacory only turned himself in because any trace of seminal fluids would put him at the crime scene. This confession is just their way of jumping ahead of the storm.
It was a smart move by Malachi Sanders, but he should have taken his own advice about underestimating people, specifically law enforcement. So what if Jacory confessed to statutory rape and not murder? Do they really think the cops in this room are about to let facts get in the way of frying his ass? Especially if it would exonerate the department of negligence.
Jessica, Griffin, and Dixon spent another two hours questioning Jacory. I excuse myself from the conference room thirty minutes after Jacory’s confession and help myself to donuts for the carbs I so desperately need. With everyone so focused on the protests outside and their prime suspect in interrogation, I use this opportunity to slip down to the holding cells.
In the basement, everything was painted in a faded orange color, the cinderblock walls, the heavy doors, the bunks in the holding cells and the bars that confined them. This is the prison wing of the department. It’s a long spacious hallway where five holding cells were stationed on both sides. There’s no windows, no sunlight, only surveillance cameras in every corner and a seated guard stationed just outside the access door. If it became overcrowded, county jail was within walking distance of the department.
At the moment, a habitual DUI offender was in the last cell on the left. Six hostiles were arrested during the protests and each had their own cell. They started up complaining as soon as I entered the hallway but pacified when I lied about being a Jehovah’s Witness.
The cell closest to the heavy metal access door was Cell 1-A. Here are the two Thompson brothers, Jamar and O’Shea. They’re still dressed like students and too ashamed to look at me.
Good. If I even sensed an ounce of defiance, I might have changed my mind and left them there with the rest of the posers. With both hands in my pocket, I give the boys a scathing stare. Before long, the oldest one, Jamar, stands up and approaches the bars. I don’t say anything. The mild swelling in my cheek demands reparations.
“My bad, man,” Jamar says.
“You aren’t the one who hit me.”
“Sorry.” O’Shea sulks, still seated on the bunk.
“Do you remember my name?” I ask Jamar.
He shakes his head no.
“My name is Cloud Beaudry. I went to the same school as your sister, KeNedra.”
“You went to Cedar Creek?” Jamar asks in astonishment.
“Class of 2005. Go Razorbacks,” I casually say.
He chuckles. “Damn, son. You don’t strike me as someone who’d survive at Cedar Creek. The way you act, even the other white boys would eat you up.”
“Oh, you don’t need to tell me. I barely escaped by burying my nose in the books. Half the time, everyone thought I was gay so no one wanted to touch me. You know, for fear of getting the gay on them, I guess.”
Jamar claps his hands in laughter.
“You gay?” O’Shea asks, only hearing half of what I said.
“No, bro. Not gay.”
“Why do you care so much about this case?” Jamar asks me. “Is it white guilt? You one of them white boys who identifies as a brotha? Do you wish you were black or some shit?”
I heave out a heavy sigh. “Sometimes I think…what if we all went color blind after we reached the age of eighteen or twenty-one. A world where we no longer saw hues or shades of saturation. A world where everyone’s the same complexion. Any complexion, but the same.”
“I don’t know bout all that,” Jamar says with high brows. “Sounds like some Hitler shit right there.”
“I’m not talking about killing off half the population, but if there was something that would strip us of this useless animosity bred by the contempt of skin color… I’m not black and I don’t know what it means to be black. At the same time, even though I’m white, after thirty years of life, I still don’t even know what that means. Yeah, there’s the jokes about better credit scores and no one locking their doors when I walk by. But I think all that goes out of the window when everyone thinks you’re a freak, when everyone thinks you’re the next mass shooter, or when half the town thinks your mother’s a whore.”
“Hey! Whadd’you call my moms!?” O’Shea barks.
Jamar rolls his eyes. “He’s talking about his own mother, nigga. Man, sit yo’ dumbass down. Damn!”
“It’s alright. That same fiery offense O’Shea has, imagine having to suppress that rage for decades. If I lashed out at everyone who called my mother a whore, I’d probably be on the other side of these bars for the rest of my life. But I buried it. I buried the rage. I know. It festers. You’ll cry and question everything. Why do I have to deal with this pain while the offenders continue to draw breath without a care in the world? It’s not fair!”
I have to stop. My emotions are starting to surface. As I fight them off, a display of wretched gloom paints over and Jamar is old enough to recognize it.
“Your mom is dead, right?” Jamar asks.
“Are you glad?”
A look of wrath instantly takes over. My eagle eyes prompt him to back away from the bars. Why on earth would he ask such a question? That’s so absurd. It’s horrible to even think about it. I would never think about it.
I’ve never thought about it.
A scramble of static emits from the speaker just above me.
“You want them released or not?” the sergeant asks.
“Yes, please. Thank you.” I answer with a rapid pulse.
An alarm buzzes. The bars slide open. There’s nothing preventing me from wrapping my hands around Jamar’s presumptuous neck but I refrain.
“Let’s go.” I utter.
Their charges were dropped. The brothers follow me to the check-out desk. I sign them out before leading them outside. It’s a little past noon and there’s still protesting in the middle of Moor Street so I take the brothers around the back.
It’s the south end, facing Shudderly Street with the Riverwalk in the distance. Shudderly Street is a stark contrast from Moor, with clear blue skies, a beaming sun, and a crisp breeze to uplift our spirits.
“You know, you never answered my question.” Jamar tells me.
I’m biting my bottom lip when he hurries to say, “About wanting to be black.”
We’re standing on the cement steps. I lean against the cold metal handrail with chipped paint to ponder the question.
“No, Jamar. I don’t wish I was black. But there are a few African-Americans that I have a great deal of admiration for. With my complexion, I’ll never truly feel what its like to have people fear me for the color of my skin. And unlike most, I refuse to judge an entire race by the rash actions of an uneducated few. That’s with any race. Germans, Japanese, Koreans. Human beings like to put everyone in a category and if you don’t fit in with one, they’ll think something’s wrong with you. They’ll envy you and assume you think you’re special or better than everyone else. I don’t wish I was black but at the same time I can’t imagine anyone lining up to be me either.”
Jamar scratches his brows with skepticism. “I think that’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. Look at you. Got your monkey suit on. You work for the man! Probably got a pension, a 401K. Probably refinanced your car with a wife and kids waiting back home. You’re living the American Dream but you go out and fight crime. You can arrest anyone you want. Hell, you only got the two of us out of jail ‘cause you felt like it. Who wouldn’t want to be you?”
“Yeah, that’s me. Living the dream.”
Suddenly, the loud echoing burst of shattered headlights makes us flinch and duck for cover. There’s screams and screeching tires as police bark orders. All of it’s coming from around the front side of the building. My phone’s ringing. There are gunshots. It sounds like the pop of firecrackers but I know there’s a shooting in progress. The department’s alarm system blares louder than the wail of a fire engine. Protocol lockdown has been initiated.
I cover the brothers and usher them to crouch down next to wall of thick leafy hedges. Pedestrians flood out from around the corner. Everyone’s running so fast in a panic. Everything’s a blur. My eyes bounce from person to person, wondering what the hell is going on. I draw my gun, determined to protect the boys from any threat.
My phone is still ringing. I answer it, shouting over the noise. “Leanne! What’s going on?”
I can barely hear her. She’s asking where I’m at. I tell her. She then explains what’s happening and the revelation makes me sick to my stomach. Friggin Griffin…
Apparently as the interrogation came to a close, Griffin and the police chief tag-teamed in a verbal assault, unleashing a tirade, and threatening Jacory with the full extent of the law. They swore by the “good book” that they were going to find enough evidence to pin all the murders on him, describing in graphic detail how he’d be raped and molested in prison before finding himself in an electric chair.
He attacked Agent Dixon and stole his gun before shooting his way out of the building. Three officers were shot, alive, but in critical condition. Griffin went on the pursuit. It was he who fired the shots the brothers and I heard outside. The burst of shattered glass came from Jacory popping the tail light of his father’s SUV when he backed out and peeled off.
By the time I answered Leanne’s phone call, Jacory was leading the police in a reckless pursuit through the old pothole-ridden streets of downtown Augusta. Griffin was chasing in his black Ichigo Splinter and in his passenger seat was my beloved Jessica Arroyo.
Within minutes Leanne meets us at our location. The boys hop in the backseat and instead of taking them to safety, Leanne joins the chase. We’re getting our money’s worth out of this rental car. She drives like a maniac, turning us grown men into scared toddlers on a roller coaster. Gripping a handrail for dear life, I fill the boys in. Leanne starts to curse at me for “spilling the beans” but that’s before I explain who the Thompson boys are. As soon as I do…
“WE’LL GET HIM BOYS! The asshole who killed your sister is running from the law but he can’t hide! Hahaha! You should have seen Jess, Cloud. She sprang into action faster than a jackrabbit on smack. She had him. She had her Glock trained on Jacory’s sorry ass but the father pushed her.”
“WHAT?! That gator-skinned dickhead put his hands on Jessica!?”
“Yep! That’s when Jessica turned around and kicked the shit out of him! Hahaha! Tavvy went sprawling. They cuffed his ass and hit him with pepper spray. He was screaming like a little girl! Hahaha!”
I’m shaking my head. We’re flying down Walton Way but in a rental car. No one knows we’re police, so they’re acting like jackasses trying to block us from switching lanes. Leanne’s not about to let that stop her. She swerves into incoming traffic. I swear the movies don’t do the scene justice. I’m about ready to have a heart attack the way honking car zip by like bullets the size of tanks.
“STAHP!” O’Shea screams.
He’s weeping. Jamar has fainted. At least they have their seat belts on. I’m clenching as I stare at this devil driver, fighting the urge to pull her over at gunpoint. At the same I don’t want to distract her. All she need do is avert her eyes for a split second and we’d smash headfirst into another vehicle.
“All units converge on Laney Walker and 5th Ave. All units converge on Laney Walker and 5th!” Says the dispatch.
The dispatch also calls for the fire department and an RA-Unit. Augusta Medical Center has been alerted to prep emergency trauma teams for incoming patients. We turn onto Laney Walker Blvd five blocks away from the accident and traffic is gridlocked. Leanne parks the car in a nearby gas station and we jog the rest of the way. A terrified O’Shea opts to stay inside the car and tend to his passed out older brother.
Commuters step out of their cars in the middle of the street after watching us run by. Turns out, one of Griffin’s bullets somehow managed to hit Jacory’s upper back. The loss of blood and spreading inflammation put Jacory in a daze.
His SUV swerved erratically almost to the point of flipping over. In his last moment of coherency, Jacory’s SUV carved through seventy feet of a soft grass before crashing into the mast of an advertising billboard. Leanne and I arrived to find the front end of the vehicle folded around the pole. Jacory’s right leg was smashed and pinned between seats and twisted metal. He was unconscious.
A sweaty Griffin and Jessica still had their service weapons drawn as if Jacory was still a threat. And briefly, I wonder what Griffin would have done if there weren’t so many watchful eyes. Jessica tries to maintain professionalism but I can tell she was quite transported by thrill of the chase. Leanne bombards her with a whole bunch of excited questions, but I keep my distance and take a moment to assess the situation.
There’s so much going on at once, so many details. I know Jacory isn’t the killer but I’m the only one who knows that. If Jessica had her doubts, it sure as shit went up in smoke the moment Jacory tried to run. She was now thoroughly convinced that the gun-toting Jacory was the Slave Quarter Killer.
Old man Mr. Wayne told me that the killer drove a vehicle of flashing lights. All around me there are flashing lights. The squad cars, the fire trucks coming with Jaws of Life to free Jacory. Even the ambulance had flashing blue and red lights as it barges through the median to get through traffic. Emergency services of all sorts swarm like bees, waffle-stomping the grassy soil, and mucking up fresh tread marks. Any one of them could be the real killer.
“YEAHH!!!!” Griffin shouts as he congratulates my Jessica. He even goes so far as to lift her up in a big manly bear hug. Oh, it burns to see this.
Suddenly, I recall his reasons for checking the other slave quarters. A hunch, he called it. Hunch, my ass. You killed those girls. You raped them and beat them to death. Then, you followed me at night and tried to kill me too. Once I find out you left Leanne’s bed before midnight, your fate will be sealed.
So go ahead. Celebrate, you son of a bitch. Think that you’ve won. It’s okay. I want you to. I want you feel good. I want you to feel triumph. Because I’m going to destroy you. And it will be sweet.