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Napoleon Hill

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
Upload bìa: Bach Ly Bang
Language: English
Số chương: 34
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Cập nhật: 2015-09-04 21:01:18 +0700
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Chapter 6
here were sixty women in Cell Block C, four to a cell. Faces peered out from behind bars as Tracy was marched down the long, smelly corridor, and the expressions varied from indifference to lust to hatred. She was walking underwater in some strange, unknown land, an alien in a slowly unfolding dream. Her throat was raw from the screaming inside her trapped body. The summons to the warden's office had been her last faint hope. Now there was nothing. Nothing except the mind-numbing prospect of being caged in this purgatory for the next fifteen years.
The matron opened a cell door. "Inside!"
Tracy blinked and looked around. In the cell were three women, silently watching her.
"Move," the matron ordered.
Tracy hesitated, then stepped into the cell. She heard the door slam behind her.
She was home.
The cramped cell barely held four bunks, a little table with a cracked mirror over it, four small lockers, and a seatless toilet in the far corner.
Her cell mates were staring at her. The Puerto Rican woman broke the silence. "Looks like we got ourselves a new cellie." Her voice was deep and throaty. She would have been beautiful if it had not been for a livid knife scar that ran from her temple to her throat. She appeared to be no older than fourteen, until you looked into her eyes.
A squat, middle-aged Mexican woman said, "¡Que suerte verte! Nice to see you. What they got you in for, querida?"
Tracy was too paralyzed to answer.
The third woman was black. She was almost six feet tall, with narrow, watchful eyes and a cold, hard mask of a face. Her head was shaved and her skull shone blue-black in the dim light. "Tha's your bunk over in the corner."
Tracy walked over to the bunk. The mattress was filthy, stained with the excreta of God only knew how many previous occupants. She could not bring herself to touch it. Involuntarily, she voiced her revulsion. "I--- I can't sleep on this mattress."
The fat Mexican woman grinned. "You don' have to, honey. Hay tiempo. You can sleep on mine."
Tracy suddenly became aware of the undercurrents in the cell, and they hit her with a physical force. The three women were watching her, staring, making her feel naked. Fresh meat. She was suddenly terrified. I'm wrong, Tracy thought Oh, please let me be wrong.
She found her voice. "Who--- who do I see about getting a clean mattress?"
"God," the black woman grunted. "But he ain't been around here lately."
Tracy turned to look at the mattress again. Several large black roaches were crawling across it. I can't stay in this place, Tracy thought. I'll go insane.
As though reading her mind, the black woman told her, "You go with the flow, baby."
Tracy heard the warden's voice: The best advice l can give you is to try to do easy time....
The black woman continued. "I'm Ernestine Littlechap." She nodded toward the woman with the long scar. "Tha's Lola. She's from Puerto Rico, and fatso here is Paulita, from Mexico. Who are you?"
"I'm--- I'm Tracy Whitney." She had almost said, "I was Tracy Whitney." She had the nightmarish feeling that her identity was slipping away. A spasm of nausea swept through her, and she gripped the edge of the bunk to steady herself.
"Where you come from, honey?" the fat woman asked.
"I'm sorry, I--- I don't feel like talking." She suddenly felt too weak to stand. She slumped down on the edge of the filthy bunk and wiped the beads of cold perspiration from her face with her skirt. My baby, she thought. I should have told the warden I'm going to have a baby. He'll move me into a clean cell. Perhaps they'll even let me have a cell by myself.
She heard footsteps coming down the corridor. A matron was walking past the cell. Tracy hurried to the cell door. "Excuse me," she said, "I have to see the warden. I'm---"
"I'll send him right down," the matron said over her shoulder.
"You don't understand. I'm---"
The matron was gone.
Tracy crammed her knuckles in her mouth to keep from screaming.
"You sick or somethin', honey?" the Puerto Rican asked.
Tracy shook her head, unable to speak. She walked back to the bunk, looked at it a moment, then slowly lay down on it. It was an act of hopelessness, an act of surrender. She closed her eyes.
o O o
Her tenth birthday was the.most exciting day of her life. We're going to Antoine's for dinner, her father announced.
Antoine's! It was a name that conjured up another world, a world of beauty and glamour and wealth. Tracy knew that her father did not have much money: We'll be able to afford a vacation next year, was the constant refrain in the house. And now they were going to Antoine's! Tracy's mother dressed her in a new green frock.
Just look at you two, her father boasted. I'm with the two prettiest women in New Orleans. Everyone's going to be jealous of me.
Antoine's was everything Tracy had dreamed it would be, and more. So much more. It was a fairyland, elegant and tastefully decorated, with white napery and gleaming silver-and-gold monogrammed dishes. It's a palace, Tracy thought. I'll bet kings and queens come here. She was too excited to eat, too busy staring at all the beautifully dressed men and women. When I'm grown up, Tracy promised herself, I'm going to come to Antoine's every night, and I'll bring my mother and father with me.
You're not eating, Tracy, her mother said.
And to please her, Tracy forced herself to eat a few mouthfuls. There was a cake for her, with ten candles on it, and the waiters sang Happy Birthday and the other guests turned and applauded, and Tracy felt like a princess. Outside she could hear the clang of a streetcar bell as it passed.
o O o
The clanging of the bell was loud and insistent.
"Suppertime," Ernestine Littlechap announced.
Tracy opened her eyes. Cell doors were slamming open throughout the cell block. Tracy lay on her bunk, trying desperately to hang on to the past.
"Hey! Chow time," the young Puerto Rican said.
The thought of food sickened her. "I'm not hungry."
Paulita, the fat Mexican woman spoke. "Es llano. It's simple. They don' care if you're hungry or not. Everybody gotta go to mess."
Inmates were lining up in the corridor outside.
"You better move it, or they'll have your ass," Ernestine warned.
I can't move, Tracy thought. I'll stay here.
Her cell mates left the cell and lined up in a double file. A short, squat matron with peroxided-blond hair saw Tracy lying on her bunk. "You!" she said. "Didn't you hear the bell? Get out here."
Tracy said, "I'm not hungry, thank you. I'd like to be excused."
The matron's eyes widened in disbelief. She stormed inside the cell and strode over to where Tracy lay. "Who the fuck do you think you are? You waitin' for room service? Get your ass in that line. I could put you on report for this: If it happens again, you go to the bing. Understand?"
She did not understand. She did not understand anything that was happening to her. She dragged herself from the bunk and walked out into the line of women. She was standing next to the black woman. "Why do I---?"
"Shut up!" Ernestine Littlechap growled out of the corner of her mouth. "No talkin' in line."
The women were marched down a narrow, cheerless corridor past two sets of security doors, into an enormous mess hall filled with large wooden tables and chairs. There was a long serving counter with steam tables, where prisoners lined up for their food. The menu of the day consisted of a watery tuna casserole, limp green beans, a pale custard, and a choice of weak coffee or a synthetic fruit drink. Ladles of the unappetizing-looking food were thrown into the tin plates of the prisoners as they moved along the line, and the inmates who were serving behind the counter kept up a steady cry: "Keep the line moving. Next... keep the line moving. Next..."
When Tracy was served, she stood there uncertainly, not sure where to go. She looked around for Ernestine Littlechap, but the black woman had disappeared. Tracy walked over to a table where Lola and Paulita, the fat Mexican woman, were seated. There were twenty women at the table, hungrily wolfing down their food. Tracy looked down at what was on her plate, then pushed it away, as the bile rose and welled in her throat.
Paulita reached over and grabbed the plate from Tracy. "If you ain't gonna eat that, I'll take it."
Lola said, "Hey, you gotta eat, or you won't last here."
I don't want to last, Tracy thought hopelessly. l want to die. How could these women tolerate living like this? How tong had they been here? Months? Years? She thought of the fetid cell and her verminous mattress, and she wanted to scream. She clenched her jaw shut so that no sound would come out.
The Mexican woman was saying, "If they catch you not eatin', you go to the bing." She saw the uncomprehending look on Tracy's face. "The hole--- solitary. You wouldn't like it." She leaned forward. "This is your first time in the joint, huh? Well, I'm gonna give you a tip, querida. Ernestine Littlechap runs this place. Be nice to her an' you got it made."
o O o
Thirty minutes from the time the women had entered the room, a loud bell sounded and the women stood up. Paulita snatched a lone green bean from a plate next to her. Tracy joined her in the line, and the women began the march back to their cells. Supper was over. It was four o'clock in the afternoon--- five long hours to endure before lights out.
When Tracy returned to the cell, Ernestine Littlechap was already there. Tracy wondered incuriously where she had bee at dinnertime. Tracy looked at the toilet in the corner. She desperately needed to use it, but she could not bring herself to do so in front of these women. She would wait until the lights went out. She sat down on the edge of her bunk.
Ernestine Littlechap said, "I understan' you didn't eat none of your supper. Tha's stupid."
How could she have known that? And why should she care? "How do I see the warden?"
"You put in a written request. The guards use it for toilet paper. They figure any cunt who wants to see the warden is a troublemaker." She walked over to Tracy. "There's lotsa things kin get you in trouble here. What you need is a friend who kin he'p keep you outta trouble." She smiled, showing a gold front tooth. Her voice was soft. "Someone who knows their way around the zoo."
Tracy looked up into the black woman's grinning face. It seemed to be floating somewhere near the ceiling.
o O o
It was the tallest thing she had ever seen.
That's a giraffe, her father said.
They were at the zoo in Audubon Park. Tracy loved the park. On Sundays they went there to listen to the band concerts and afterward her mother and father took her to the aquarium or the zoo. They walked slowly, looking at the animals in the cages.
Don't they hate being locked up, Papa?
Her father laughed. No. Tracy. They have a wonderful life They're taken care of and fed, and their enemies can't get them.
They looked unhappy to Tracy. She wanted to open their cages and let them out. l wouldn't ever want to be locked up like that, Tracy thought.
o O o
At 8:45 the warning bell rang throughout the prison. Tracy's cell mates began to undress. Tracy did not move.
Lola said, "You got fifteen minutes to get ready for bed."
The women had stripped and put.on nightgowns. The peroxided-blond matron passed the cell. She stopped when she saw Tracy lying on her cot.
"Get undressed," she ordered. She turned to Ernestine. "Didn't you tell her?"
"Yeah. We tol' her."
The matron turned back to Tracy. "We got a way of takin' care of troublemakers," she warned. "You do what you're told here, or I'll bust your ass." The matron moved down the hall.
Paulita cautioned, "You better listen to her, baby. Old Iron Pants is one mean bitch."
Slowly, Tracy rose and began to undress, keeping her back to the others. She took off all her clothes, with the exception of her panties, and slipped the coarse nightgown over her head. She felt the eyes of the other women on her.
"You got a real nice body," Paulita commented.
"Yeah, real nice," Lola echoed.
Tracy felt a shiver go through her.
Ernestine moved over to Tracy and looked down at her. "We're your friends. We gonna take good care of you." Her voice was hoarse with excitement.
Tracy wildly jerked around. "Leave me alone! All of you. I'm--- I'm not that way."
The black woman chuckled. "You'll be any way we want you to be, baby."
"Hay tiempo. There's plenty of time."
The lights went out.
o O o
The dark was Tracy's enemy. She sat on the edge of her bunk, her body tense. She could sense the others waiting to pounce on her. Or was it her imagination? She was so overwrought that everything seemed to be a threat. Had they threatened her? Not really. They were probably just trying to be friendly, and she had read sinister implications into their overtures. She had heard about homosexual activity in prisons, but that had to be the exception rather than the rule. A prison would not permit that sort of behavior.
Still, there was a nagging doubt. She decided she would stay awake all night. If one of them made a move, she would call for help. It was the responsibility of the guards to see that nothing happened to the inmates. She reassured herself that there was nothing to worry about. She would just have to stay alert.
Tracy sat on the edge of her bunk in the dark, listening to every sound. One by one she heard the three women go to the toilet, use it, and return to their bunks. When Tracy could stand it no longer, she made her way to the toilet. She tried to flush it, but it did not work. The stench was almost unbearable. She hurried back to her cot and sat there. It will be light soon, she thought. In the morning I'll ask to see the warden. I'll tell him about the baby. He'll have me moved to another cell.
Tracy's body was tense and cramped. She lay back on her bunk and within seconds felt something crawling across her neck. She stifled a scream. I've got to stand it until morning. Everything will be all right in the morning, Tracy thought. One minute at a time.
At 3:00 she could no longer keep her eyes open. She slept.
o O o
She was awakened by a hand clamped across her mouth and two hands grabbing at her breasts. She tried to sit up and scream, and she felt her nightgown and underpants being ripped away. Hands slid between her thighs, forcing her legs apart. Tracy fought savagely, struggling to rise.
"Take it easy," a voice in the dark whispered, "and you won't get hurt."
Tracy lashed out at the voice with her feet. She connected with solid flesh.
"Carajo! Give it to the bitch," the voice gasped. "Get her on the floor!"
A hard fist smashed into Tracy's face and another into her stomach. Someone was on top of her, holding her down, smothering her, while obscene hands violated her.
Tracy broke loose for an instant, but one of the women grabbed her and slammed her head against the bars. She felt the blood spurt from her nose. She was thrown to the concrete floor, and her hands and legs were pinned down. Tracy fought like a madwoman, but she was no match for the three of them. She felt cold hands and hot tongues caressing her body. Her legs were spread apart and a hard, cold object was shoved inside her. She writhed helplessly, desperately trying to call out. An arm moved across her mouth, and Tracy sank her teeth into it, biting down with all her strength.
There was a muffled cry. "You cunt!"
Fists pounded her face.... She sank into the pain, deeper and deeper, until finally she felt nothing.
o O o
It was the clanging of the bell that awakened her. She was lying on the cold cement floor of her cell, naked. Her three cell mates were in their bunks.
In the corridor, Iron Pants was calling out, "Rise and shine." As the matron passed the cell, she saw Tracy lying on the floor in a small pool of blood, her face battered and one eye swollen shut.
"What the hell's goin' on here?" She unlocked the door and stepped inside the cell.
"She musta fell outta her bunk," Ernestine Littlechap offered.
The matron walked over to Tracy's side and nudged her with her foot. "You! Get up."
Tracy heard the voice from a far distance. Yes, she thought, I must get up; I must get out of here. But she was unable to move. Her body was screaming out with pain.
The matron grabbed Tracy's elbows and pulled her to a sitting position, and Tracy almost fainted from the agony.
"What happened?"
Through one eye Tracy saw the blurred outlines of her cell mates silently waiting for her answer.
"I--- I---" Tracy tried to speak, but no words would come out. She tried again, and some deep-seated atavistic instinct made her say, "I fell off my bunk...."
The matron snapped, "I hate smart asses. Let's put you in the bing till you learn some respect."
o O o
It was a form of oblivion, a return to the womb. She was alone in the dark. There was no furniture in the cramped basement cell, only a thin, worn mattress thrown on the cold cement floor. A noisome hole in the floor served as a toilet. Tracy lay there in the blackness, humming folk songs to herself that her father had taught her long ago. She had no idea how close she was to the edge of insanity.
She was not sure where she was, but it did not matter. Only the suffering of her brutalized body mattered. I must have fallen down and hurt myself, but Mama will take care of it. She called out in a broken voice, "Mama...," and when there was no answer, she fell asleep again.
She slept for forty-eight hours, and the agony finally receded to pain, and the pain gave way to soreness. Tracy opened her eyes. She was surrounded by nothingness. It was so dark that she could not even make out the outline of the cell. Memories came flooding back. They had carried her to the doctor. She could hear his voice: "...a broken rib and a fractured wrist. We'll tape them up.... The cuts and bruises are bad, but they'll heal. She's lost the baby...."
"Oh, my baby," Tracy whispered. "They've murdered my baby."
And she wept. She wept for the loss of her baby. She wept for herself. She wept for the whole sick world.
Tracy lay on the thin mattress in the cold darkness, and she was filled with such an overpowering hatred that it literally shook her body. Her thoughts burned and blazed until her mind was empty of every emotion but one: vengeance. It was not a vengeance directed against her three cell mates. They were victims as much as she. No; she was after the men who had done this to her, who had destroyed her life.
Joe Romano: "Your old lady held out on me. She didn't tell me she had a horny-looking daughter...."
Anthony Orsatti: "Joe Romano works for a man named Anthony Orsatti. Orsatti runs New Orleans...."
Perry Pope: "By pleading guilty; you save the state the expense of a trial...."
Judge Henry Lawrence: "For the next fifteen years you're going to be incarcerated in the Southern Louisiana Penitentiary for Women...."
Those were her enemies. And then there was Charles, who had never even listened to her: "If you needed money that badly, you could have discussed it with me.... Obviously I never really knew you.... You'll have to do whatever you think best with your baby...."
She was going to make them pay. Every one of them. She had no idea how. But she knew she was going to get revenge. Tomorrow, she thought. If tomorrow comes.
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes