Medicine for the soul.

Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
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Language: English
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Cập nhật: 2015-09-04 21:01:18 +0700
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Chapter 5
stocky, stony-faced matron with sable-brown dyed hair was addressing the new arrivals: "Some of you are gonna be here for a long, long time. There's only one way you're gonna make it, and that's by forgettin' all about the outside world. You can do your time the easy way or the hard way. We have rules here, and you'll follow those rules. We'll tell you when to get up, when to work, when to eat, and when to go to the toilet. You break any of our rules, and you'll wish you was dead. We like to keep things peaceful here, and we know how to handle troublemakers." Her eyes flicked over to Tracy. "You'll be taken for your physical examinations now. After that you'll go to the showers and be assigned your cells. In the mornin' you'll receive your work duties. That's all." She started to turn away.
A pale young girl standing next to Tracy said, "Excuse me, please, could---"
The matron whirled around, her face filled with fury. "Shut your fuckin' mouth. You speak only when you're spoken to, do you understand? That goes for all you assholes."
The tone, as much as the words, was a shock to Tracy. The matron signaled to two women guards at the back of the room. "Get these no-good bitches out of here."
Tracy found herself being herded out of the room with the others, down a long corridor. The prisoners were marched into a large, white-tiled room, where a fat, middle-aged man in a soiled smock stood next to an examination table.
One of the matrons called out, "Line up," and formed the women into one long line.
The man in the smock said, "I'm Dr. Glasco, ladies. Strip!"
The women turned to look at one another, uncertainly. One of them said, "How far should we---?"
"Don't you know what the hell strip means? Get your clothes off--- all of them."
Slowly, the women began to undress. Some of them were self-conscious, some outraged, some indifferent. On Tracy's left was a woman in her late forties, shivering violently, and on Tracy's right was a pathetically thin girl who looked to be no more than seventeen years old. Her skin was covered with acne.
The doctor gestured to the first woman in line. "Lie down on the table and put your feet in the stirrups."
The woman hesitated.
"Come on. You're holding up the line."
She did as she was told. The doctor inserted a speculum into her vagina. As he probed, he asked, "Do you have a venereal disease?"
"We'll soon find out about that."
The next woman replaced her on the table. As the doctor started to insert the same speculum into her, Tracy cried out, "Wait a minute!"
The doctor stopped and looked up in surprise. "What?"
Everyone was staring at Tracy. She said, "I... you didn't sterilize that instrument."
Dr. Glasco gave Tracy a slow, cold smile. "Well! We have a gynecologist in the house. You're worried about germs, are you? Move down to the end of the line."
"Don't you understand English? Move down."
Tracy, not understanding why, took her place at the end of the line.
"Now, if you don't mind," the doctor said, "we'll continue." He inserted the speculum into the woman on the table, and Tracy suddenly realized why she was the last in line. He was going to examine all of them with the same unsterilized speculum, and she would be the last one on whom he used it. She could feel an anger boiling up inside her. He could have examined them separately, instead of deliberately stripping away their dignity. And they were letting him get away with it. If they all protested--- It was her turn.
"On the table, Ms. Doctor."
Tracy hesitated, but she had no choice. She climbed up on the table and closed her eyes. She could feel him spread her legs apart, and then the cold speculum was inside her, probing and pushing and hurting. Deliberately hurting. She gritted her teeth.
"You got syphilis or gonorrhea?" the doctor asked.
"No." She was not going to tell him about the baby. Not this monster. She would discuss that with the warden.
She felt the speculum being roughly pulled out of her. Dr. Glasco was putting on a pair of rubber gloves. "All right," he said. "Line up and bend over. We're going to check your pretty little asses."
Before she could stop herself, Tracy said, "Why are you doing this?"
Dr. Glasco stared at her. "I'll tell you why, Doctor. Because assholes are great hiding places. I have a whole collection of marijuana and cocaine that I got from ladies like you. Now bend over." And he went down the line, plunging his fingers into anus after anus. Tracy was sickened. She could feel the hot bile rise in her throat and she began to gag.
"You vomit in here, and I'll rub your face in it." He turned to the guards. "Get them to the showers. They stink."
Carrying their clothes, the naked prisoners were marched down another corridor to a large concrete room with a dozen open shower stalls.
"Lay your clothes in the corner," a matron ordered. "And get into the showers. Use the disinfectant soap. Wash every part of your body from head to foot, and shampoo your hair."
Tracy stepped from the rough cement floor into the shower. The spray of water was cold. She scrubbed herself hard, thinking, I'll never be clean again. What kind of people are these? How can they treat other human beings this way? I can't stand fifteen years of this.
A guard called out to her, "Hey, you! Time's up. Get out.''
Tracy stepped out of the shower; and another prisoner took her place. Tracy was handed a thin, worn towel and half dried her body.
When the last of the prisoners had showered, they were marched to a large supply room where there were shelves of clothes guarded by a Latino inmate who sized up each prisoner and handed out gray uniforms. Tracy and the others were issued two uniform dresses, two pairs of panties, two brassieres, two pairs of shoes, two nightgowns, a sanitary belt, a hairbrush, and a laundry bag. The matrons stood watching while the prisoners dressed. When they had finished, they were herded to a room where a trusty operated a large portrait camera set on a tripod.
"Stand over there against the wall."
Tracy moved over to the wall.
"Full face."
She stared into the camera. Click.
"Turn your head to the right."
She obeyed. Click.
"Left." Click. "Over to the table."
The table had fingerprint equipment on it. Tracy's fingers were rolled across an inky pad, then pressed onto a white card.
"Left hand. Right hand. Wipe your hands with that rag. You're finished."
She's right, Tracy thought numbly. I'm finished. I'm a number. Nameless, faceless.
A guard pointed to Tracy. "Whitney? Warden wants to see you. Follow me."
Tracy's heart suddenly soared. Charles had done something after all! Of course he had not abandoned her, any more than she ever could have abandoned him. It was the sudden shock that had made him behave the way he had. He had had time to think it over now and to realize he still loved her. He had talked to the warden and explained the terrible mistake that had been made. She was going to be set free.
She was marched down a different corridor, through two sets of heavily barred doors manned by male and female guards. As Tracy was admitted through the second door, she was almost knocked down by a prisoner. She was a giant, the biggest woman Tracy had ever seen--- well over six feet tall, she must have weighed three hundred pounds. She had a flat, pockmarked face, with feral yellow eyes. She grabbed Tracy s arm to steady her and pressed her arm against Tracy's breasts.
"Hey!" the woman said to the guard. "We got a new fish. How 'bout you put her in with me?" She had a heavy Swedish accent.
"Sorry. She's already been assigned, Bertha."
The amazon stroked Tracy's face. Tracy jerked away, and the grant woman laughed. "It's okay, littbarn. Big Bertha will see you later. We got plenty of time. You ain't goin' nowhere."
They reached the warden's office. Tracy was faint with anticipation. Would Charles be there? Or would he have sent his attorney?
The warden's secretary nodded to the guard, "He's expecting her. Wait here."
o O o
Warden George Brannigan was seated at a scarred desk, studying some papers in front of him. He was in his mid-forties, a thin, careworn-Looking man, with a sensitive face and deep-set hazel eyes.
Warden Brannigan had been in charge of the Southern Louisiana Penitentiary for Women for five years. He had arrived with the background of a modern penologist and the zeal of an idealist, determined to make sweeping reforms in the prison. But it had defeated him, as it had defeated others before him.
The prison originally had been built to accommodate two inmates to a cell, and now each cell held as many as four to six prisoners. He knew that the same situation applied everywhere. The country's prisons were all overcrowded and understaffed. Thousands of criminals were penned up day and night with nothing to do but nurse their hatred and plot their vengeance. It was a stupid, brutal system, but it was all there was.
He buzzed his secretary. "All right. Send her in."
The guard opened the door to the inner office, and Tracy stepped inside.
Warden Brannigan looked up at the woman standing before him. Dressed in the drab prison uniform, her face bruised with fatigue, Tracy Whitney still looked beautiful. She had a lovely, candid face, and Warden Brannigan wondered how long it would remain that way. He was particularly interested in this prisoner because he had read about her case in the newspapers and had studied her record. She was a first offender, had not killed anyone, and fifteen years was an inordinately harsh sentence. The fact that Joseph Romano was her accuser made her conviction all the more suspect. But the warden was simply the custodian of bodies. He could not buck the system. He was the system.
"Please have a seat," he said.
Tracy was glad to sit down. Her knees were weak. He was going to tell her now about Charles, and how soon she would be released.
"I've been looking over your record," the warden began.
Charles would have asked him to do that.
"I see you're going to be with us a long time. Your sentence is fifteen years."
It took a moment for his words to sink in. Something was dreadfully wrong. "Didn't--- didn't you speak to--- to Charles?" In her nervousness she was stammering.
He looked at her blankly. "Charles?"
And she knew. Her stomach turned to water. "Please," she said. "Please listen to me. I'm innocent. I don't belong here."
How many times had he heard that? A hundred? A thousand? I'm innocent.
He said, "The courts have found you guilty. The best advice I can give you is to try to do easy time. Once you accept the terms of your imprisonment, it will be a lot easier for you. There are no clocks in prison, only calendars."
I can't be locked up here for fifteen years, Tracy thought in despair. I want to die. Please, God, let me die. But I can't die, can I? I would be killing my baby. It's your baby, too, Charles. Why aren't you here helping me? That was the moment she began to hate him.
"If you have any special problems,", Warden Brannigan said, "I mean, if I can help you in any way, I want you to come see me." Even as he spoke, he knew how hollow his words were. She was young and beautiful and fresh. The bull-dykes in the prison would fall on her like animals. There was not even a safe cell to which he could assign her. Nearly every cell was controlled by a stud. Warden Brannigan had heard rumors of rapes in the showers, in the toilets, and in the corridors at night. But they were only rumors, because the victims were always silent afterward. Or dead.
Warden Brannigan said gently, "With good behavior, you might be released in twelve or---"
"No!" It was a cry of black despair, of desperation. Tracy felt the walls of the office closing in on her. She was on her feet, screaming. The guard came hurrying in and grabbed Tracy's arms.
"Easy," Warden Brannigan commanded him.
He sat there, helpless, and watched as Tracy was led away.
o O o
She was taken down a series of corridors past cells filled with inmates of every description. They were black and white and brown and yellow. They stared at Tracy as she passed and called out to her in a dozen accents. Their cries made no sense to Tracy.
"Fish night..."
"French mate..."
"Fresh mite..."
"Flesh meet..."
It was not until Tracy reached her cell block that she realized what the women were chanting: "Fresh meat."
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes