The Minstrel

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Another demonstration. Blacks lined all up and down the streets blocking traffic. Today they were peaceful, but they proved an ominous vision for any white passerby trying as best they could to ignore the spectacle.

Tony Jones Velda was going to be held on a grand jury hearing. Three days had passed since the attack was made on Emmanuel Jackson’s life, and yet no other suspects had been charged but Velda. The African-American community was in outrage. Those who knew Velda could not imagine him to harm any of hi black brothers. The blacks of the neighborhood had accepted him in all the ways that the Puerto Rican community had not, accepting the black in him as being one of their own. The Reverend Casper Williams along with several other renowned black activists spoke against the racism of the Hispanics that Tony Velda lived among, claiming that their openness to all culture was hypocritical: they were open to all cultures, just so long as African-American blood didn’t taint their Latino ways. The Latinos didn’t know what it was like to be enslaved or told to go to the back of the bus. Hell, the Latinos even got their special privilege to speak their language publicly. They didn’t know what it was like to be hated just because they were dark. Half of them were whiter than the Caucasians in Little Italy. Perhaps, Williams countered, this skin privilege gave them the luxury to turn their backs on one of their own.

So now there were all kinds of demonstrations in front of the courthouse: Latinos, blacks, whites all alike, on all kinds of spectrums. It all began early in the morning, well before 6am, so by the time the courtroom opened its doors for its daily agenda of litigation the crows was in an uproar, almost dangerously so. Each race was threatening the others, there were punches thrown and stones cast, for anger knew no race and knew all of them. Business people, mothers with children going to preschool, and senior citizens walking innocently down the street turned and went in the other direction as they encountered the danger. They, too, were of many cultures and races. Fear knew of no race, yet knew all of them.

Frawley and Compton were yelling at each other in Frawley’s posh White Plains office as the blows were thrown in the chamber of the streets.

“You should have called in the military. You knew this could happen, after last time,” Frawley accused.

And Compton responded with his usual nervous disposition, the weak coward. “But we didn’t know it would get like this. We thought we had warned them.”

Frawley recalled broken glass and the smashed store fronts of the recent times, care of the stupid Negroes, et al, who couldn’t handle life if it didn’t go their way, and instantly wanted to belt Compton. The man was truly an idiot.

“What did you guys do after the riot?

“We notified Albany.” Albany? What the hell could they do, send in the cows? “They felt it wasn’t an emergency situation. No one died and nothing was permanently destroyed. Washington would have probably had the same reaction.”

For once, Frawley couldn’t argue. It seemed cities had to burn down and whole towns had to be wiped out before the National Guard got off its butt and did anything to stop the insanity. “Has the grand jury come in?”

“Several hours ago. They’re being sequestered in the holding pen.”

How apropos. The jury in jail. “So everything’s scheduled to happen as it was.”

“Yep. But I doubt there’s going to be an impartial verdict with all this noise happening outside.”

Frawley wanted to scream, since when had a jury ever been impartial, but kept his mouth shut. “I still can’t believe the guy hadn’t been indicted already. Three people are dead.” He deliberately omitted the nigger in the hospital.

“We were waiting for your woman. No leads on her, huh?”

Frawley bristled with agitation. The women in his life were such sore spots that even a fifth of Jack Daniels couldn’t take it away.

He’d actually seen Addie only two days earlier, walking by herself in a dark alley. And he hadn’t been that drunk, he knew he wasn’t; all he’d wanted to do was talk to her, but she didn’t even want to see him. She ran away from him, covering her face, but he kept trying to run after her. Then she started hitting him, which for the likes of the good Frawley, he had no idea what precipitated it. Then he was walloped, big time, by some guy who didn’t he didn’t even realize was there. His head still smarted from the shiner that almost was. When he looked about him a few seconds later, Addie and her new boyfriend were no longer there. But his wife was. Frawley had never been so humiliated in all his life.

And his wife had somehow changed overnight without his realizing it. She was no longer the ugly shrew she had been of late. She was beautiful, stunning even, with her hair coifed, jewels sparkling, spiked heels, she looked like a dominatrix with class. She stood at a short distance, appearing to Frawley like a mirage of an oasis in the heat of a desert. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d even been so happy to see his wife. He called out to her, but she didn’t hear him. It was as though she really was an apparition concocted from his wishful thinking. Hell, she hadn’t been that beautiful since she was twenty-five, at least.

And still he hadn’t spoken to her. For days no it had been the same thing. When he woke up in the middle of the night, the bed was empty. When he showered in the morning, there were no sounds from the kitchen. At night, no matter how late he arrived, there was no drunken whimpering on the verandah. And there were no longer any humiliating appearances at his office. All he had been broken into gradually over the last month or so, all but the empty bed. That was what kept him up, with tortured thoughts. He would check her closet, and it would be full. It was like she’d vanished. He had a mind to put in a missing persons report; in his more vengeful moments, he had a mindset that at this point, if she hadn’t been kidnapped or murdered, he would kill her the next time he saw her.

“Frawley?” The piteous dork brought him back to reality.

“Oh, yes. I’m sorry. My mind drifted. Where were we?”

“About the witness you claimed to know,” Compton returned almost suspiciously. Which was a lie, Frawley had never said he knew her, he had said, he knew of her; he knew to cover his tracks on this one. Of course, idiot box wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

“What’s her name?”

“What’s who’s name?”

“Do you ever listen? The witness. What’s her name?”


“Addie what?”

“Just Addie.”

“Just Addie? Where did you meet her, Alcoholics Anonymous?”

Boy, someone didn’t take their Prozac today. “Look, what do you care, anyway? The grand jury is today. Why don’t you just wait for the verdict before you get all crazy about my material witness. Besides, from what I heard, you lost her too. But you guys were trusted and paid by the taxpayers to keep her. So maybe, get your guys in gear and out of the donut shop, will you?”

Compton didn’t react; he was neurotically focused on his goal. Frawley could have said, hi, I’m going to take my clothes off and dance on my desk and gotten the same response at this point. “I think I’m going to blow up her composite sketch and send it to some other precincts to post around.”

“Why would you want to do that? Witnesses make the wanted posters nowadays?”

“Maybe we’re operating on the premise that she is more than a material witness.”

Frawley was surprised to be bemused by Compton’s attempt to sound like a cheap lawyer. A turn of events happening too quick. Velda’s fingerprints were everywhere; he’d been seen at the scene of the crime. And they had the audacity to tie in poor Addie, his Addie in the crime? He was flabbergasted.

“Why her? What do you have on her? I thought they determined no one of her stature could have committed these crimes.”

Compton shrugged, his left eye twitching, his body squirming, he took a toothpick out of his coat pocket and started chewing on it. He looked like a deflated chipmunk. Which was because he was screwing up and he knew it, concluded Frawley. He was bowing to the noise of all the minorities to look like a pseudo-liberal and get his brownie points with NAACP because he was scared of black skin while voting Republican on the side. Frawley was besieged with an urge to belt him hard on his head; not that it would do too much because there wasn’t anything inside. Finally, Compton spoke. “She was at every crime scene. That’s what we have on her.”

“So was Velda.”

“Yes, but Velda was cooperative when we brought him in. She wasn’t. In fact, she assaulted two of my officers and had her boyfriend knock one out.”

Frawley felt a pang of anger at the mention of the boyfriend but held onto himself. “Maybe she did something else and she was afraid. A lot of people don’t like being arrested, John. It’s not exactly their favorite experience in life. It doesn’t make them triple murderers.”

“I’m treating her as an accomplice.” Compton said with a short bark. Ruff, ruff.

“Am I to understand then, that I am a witness?”

Compton lost footing on his tenuous confidence with that question. “Y-yes, I suppose.”

Frawley leveled him with a glare that he gave every officer who tried to destroy his client in the witness stand in his court.

“But I haven’t seen anything. Am I a character witness, then? I told you that I don’t know her well.”

“Iyou could testify to her emotional instability.

“This makes her a murderer, this lingo you’re handing me.”

“Of course not.” Compton suddenly sat up straight. “But it would be a classic profile of a vulnerable woman being manipulated by a dangerous man to assist him in murder.”

“The dangerous man being the boyfriend who punched out one of your well-trained men.”


“Like Bonnie and Clyde.”

“Sure. Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia, that sort of thing.”

It was true. Of course, Compton the Illiterate only could provide B movie examples, but Frawley had heard and witnessed many female murder defendants whose defense was based on being lured and intimidated by seedy men into acts that they insisted they never would do by themselves; a sort of temporary insanity plea. It usually worked; a jury generally wouldn’t believe that a woman was capable of heinous crimes on her own volition. Perhaps that was true for Addie as well; that she had been coerced into a situation beyond her control. There had been fear in her eyes that he had never seen before in her. Maybe it hadn’t been Frawley that she was afraid of; maybe it was the boyfriend she had that she was really scared of. God knew Frawley was, he noted, wincing as he touched his sore eye.

“You think her boyfriend orchestrated the killings?”

“He’s a possible suspect, I suppose. Do you know anything about him that could help us?”

“Not much. He’s about six two, burly, dark hair, white, speaks Spanish.”

“So he’s a European Spanish guy.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Compton whipped out a notepad and began to jot down little symbols that Frawley couldn’t decipher. Probably pig Latin, he figured. Here piggy, piggy. Frawley could barely restrain himself from snorting aloud. “Are you going to send composites out now?” he asked.

“Sure. It was authorized already.”

“Before the grand jury on Velda came in?”

“Why not? We know he’s not going to be indicted. There isn’t enough evidence to hold him.”

Leave it to a dolt to run law enforcement. “I hope this hasn’t been leaked to the press.”

Compton hunched himself like a typical coward as he vainly tried to rationalize his actions. “So what if it does? You’re the only person who thinks he’s guilty.”

Frawley felt his anger grow red as he stood up to point his finger so it practically jammed up Compton’s nose. “You stupid cowardly shit. You come marching in her like some weak-assed know-it-all trying to get me to help you and then you have the balls to insult me and my position just because I’m the only one around here who has the guts not to bow down to the wishes of idiots who throw temper tantrums? You stupid ass, you’re kicking down the wrong man. Let me tell you one thing, just because you’re kissing up to them doesn’t mean they love you now. You’re just a stupid white boy to them. In fact, the drug lords and gang-bangers are probably holed up right now in their little dens laughing their asses off because the little big shot white boy is scared of them. You think you are so hip and tough, and yet you are playing right into their hands.”

Compton stood up primly like a schoolgirl and daintily collected his things. “I don’t believe I need to be spoken to in this way,” he demurely announced.

“Suit yourself,” Frawley grumbled, annoyed at the psychobabble of the beuarocrat He felt like he was stuck in an assertiveness training class. He didn’t even bother to watch Compton go, though he distinctly hear “racist pig” coming out of the weasel’s mouth as he left. Must be talking about himself, Frawley thought, as he swiped the TV remote from under the desk and began flipping through the channels, hoping to ding some juicy coverage of the uprising in front of the Bronx Municipal Court. He wanted to prove that his theory was right, even though right now he’d be doing little more than proving it to his self-created audience of one.

He’d seen demonstrations. They’d been for real causes back then; though Frawley had never agreed with any of the issues. HE was pro-war, anti-choice, retro and proud. But the kids back them they seemed alive and full of hope. There had been a spirit to them which peeved him to death then but had a nostalgic effect on him now. There was none of the violence that he saw today, with the exception of Newark, and that had been the blacks. Now everybody was ready to kill on a moment’s notice. The peace lovers had produced a generation of hatemongers. They had civil rights and the Africans to thank them for that;’ they had taught more to the know-nothings of Generation X than the Golden Rule ever had. A country full of little governments of one, ready to declare war at any time, even detonate their nuclear bombs on themselves in some warped name of freedom. Why fear the president when everyone pushed the button already?

There was vodka to be drunk, a perfect companion on a dismal, lonely morning where no work had to be done. The phone hadn’t been ringing as much since Cohen’s visit a month earlier; clients hadn’t been visiting as much either. Two or three clients had notified him, telling him that they had hired new attorneys. In fact, the only person who’d been in his office more than three times in the last month was Compton. For the first week or so the trickle hadn’t bothered him, in fact, he relished the isolation and resented most of the company. It interfered with his thinking about the Velda case. He’d spent the time in the office, sipping vodka, writing letters to the mayor and the governor asking them to enforce the new death penalty on Velda and a couple of other low-life minorities like him who thought their rights mattered more than the victims they killed. He never got a response from either one, which began to bother him after while. Guess catering to a white man was too politically incorrect nowadays.

Well, at least there was a good riot on TV, he noted as he turned on his boob tube compatriot. Let them all blow themselves to pieces, for all he cared. He had his booze and his Magnum 357, ride ’em cowboy. Let ’em all blow themselves to hell. He was ready for all of them.

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