Excerpt from "City Within A City: My Life Behind the Walls"
coming in 2015
Dead Man Walking
They have a saying here in the county jail: Pressure Bursts Pipes!
I didn’t know what that meant when I first heard it, but I know what that means now.
Sitting on my bunk, I was in deep thought; I’d never had so much on my shoulders. My current crisis was crazier than any movie I’d ever seen.
And not just for me, for Lala too.
The air conditioner felt like it was ten degrees colder than last night, but I wasn’t thinking about that right now. There was too much on my mind. First, there was Lala. I hadn’t spoken to her in three days and regrets flooded my mind.
Turning Lala out at such an early age was a huge mistake. Agreeing to let her dance at the strip club was the beginning of the end. I’d taken a naive eighteen year old, groomed her into a pure hustler and created a monster. And now, there was no way that I could manage my fiancée’s activities in the free world from where I sat.
But there was no time for the moral police. My life was on the line and getting shorter by the minute. I had to find a way to get that shipment of black tar heroin into the right hands. The last note that had been delivered to my cell was a hidden threat disguised as a friendly reminder.
Just seventy-two hours ago I was living the privileged life of a powerful convict. Now I was scrambling and regrouping just to survive another day. I couldn’t let day number four catch up with me without any good news for the syndicate.
I caught Deputy Gray’s nosey ass walking the tier, and I stopped him, knowing that even he was beginning to panic.
“I need you to let me out for an emergency phone call,” I told him.
He didn’t respond, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he came back. He’d gotten used to that weekly thousand-dollar pay off from us.
Just like I expected, thirty minutes later my cell door slowly opened. The P.A. system cracked with his voice, “You got fifteen minutes, Marshall.”
I almost ran to the pay phone and called my best friend, Eric, but he didn’t answer. I called him several more times as if somehow that would change things and he’d pick up.
But after the fifth time, my forehead began to sweat and desperation set in.
I couldn’t panic now, so I settled down and thought back. Recently, Eric had given me a phone number to his cousin, Debbie. He told me to call her if I ever needed to make a call adn couldn’t reach him. I ran back to my cell, grabbed her number off my desk, then went back and dialed Debbie’s number.
Silently, I thanked God that she answered. When I told her who I was, she said, “Well, well, well. Heard a lot about you, Mr. Greg.” Her voice was sultry, it reeked with confidence.
Turning on my hustler charm, I made a little small talk with her before I got right to business. I asked Debbie to make a few calls for me on the three way so that nothing would be traced back.
As she dialed my first number, I thought about how Eric and I had already had gone into phase two: to get enough money to replace that shipment by any means necessary.
Nobody answered the first number, so I called Wendy next.
When she answered, I had to think fast. I created a story about getting bailed out, but was short five hundred dollars. A little more lying and smooth talking was all it took.
“I’ll get the money to Eric tonight,” she told me. Then, there was an awkward silence as I wanted for Wendy to hang up.
I wondered what she was waiting for, and then I remembered those 4 important words, “I love you, Baby.”
She lovingly replied, “I love you, too.”
Not taking any chances of a slip up on the three way, I hung up and called Debbie back. I gave her another number to dial. This time I called Jackee.
Jackee was a little more street savvy than Wendy; it took a lot more conversation to convince her. But eventually she bought it. “Alright, Greg, I’m gonna give the money to Eric, but I expect to see your black ass as soon as you hit these streets.”
Trying my best to hide my excitement, I agreed with any and everything she said.
Another awkward silence followed at the end of the conversation. I was slipping big time. “I love you, Jackee.”
Once again I hung up and called Debbie back. My fifteen minutes was almost up, but I wanted to thank her for making the calls. This time, she sounded a little irritated.
“You need to be ashamed of yourself, boy. I can’t believe they went for that bullshit. Who do you think you are?”
I slid into hustler mode and spit a little game at her. But Debbie was no pushover. As a matter of fact, she was downright aggressive. She represented the ultimate challenge. It was pretty obvious that she and I both loved a worthy opponent.
Just before I got off the phone, she told me that she was gonna come visit me in the morning. With all the confidence in the world I replied, “If you come once, you’ll come again.”
“Yeah, we’ll see,” she said with confidence, then hung up.
I dialed Lala’s number one more time, still no answer. I slammed the phone down and muttered under my breath, “Shit!” This was so out of character for my fiancée; where was she? Deputy Gray was standing three feet away from me. Only the steel bars separated us. In his ‘business as usual’ voice he said, “Time’s up, lock it down, Mr. Marshall.”
Knowing that everyone was observing us, I openly thanked him for the emergency phone call, then gave him a reassuring wink before I turned and headed back to my cell. I sat at my desk and evaluated the day’s events.
I was in too deep this time around. There was no turning back. I should’ve been content with Deputy Gray bringing me the weed and small gifts from the street. Having a crooked Sheriff on my team provided me a position of power, but I had wanted more.
So now, I was involved with the most powerful prison gangs in the state of California: The Aryan Nation, Black Gorilla Family, Crips, Bloods and the most notorious of them all, The Mexican Syndicate.
This venture started out as a cool hustle, but now it was a major operation. And with thousands of dollars at stake, killing me was always a realistic option for any of the gangs. At this point I couldn’t care less about the power that I had; I just wanted to get these dudes their shit.
I stretched out on my bunk, clasped my hands behind my head, stared at the ceiling and thought about Lala. Again I wondered, where was she? She had never disappeared like this. She knew the position I was in.
But then, my thoughts drifted to Eric’s cousin, Debbie. He’d told me many stories about her. Told me she drove men crazy. They both were raised on the Eastside of Los Angeles and the Eastside was known for breeding true street hustlers. I was from the Westside and considered as just another pretty boy from the streets.
That was okay with me, I just let my game speak for itself. I closed my eyes and thought about what Debbie might look like. I couldn’t wait to meet her. She’s about to meet a real Westside hustler tomorrow.
Sleep didn’t come easy that evening. I tossed and turn all night. I wasn’t surprised when I heard Deputy Gray’s voice early the next morning. He normally worked evenings, but I figured he was working a double shift.
I was sure that Deputy Gray would be the one to escort me to my visit. I wondered what time Debbie would get there; visiting hours began at ten.
It was ten thirty when I heard my name called over the P.A. system.
“Marshall, you have a visitor; you have ten minutes to get ready.”
A smile came to my face. Even though I really wanted to meet Debbie I would rather see Lala sitting at that window. Twenty minutes later, Deputy Gray was standing in front of my cell waiting to escort me. I was the only one called for the early visit so that allowed me a little one on one time with Deputy Gray.
I explained the whole situation to him and reassured him that everything would be back to normal soon. We both laughed and talked like we always did, but the concern on both our faces was obvious.
I was all settled into my visiting cage and waiting on the moment when I would see Debbie for the first time. I still had a few minutes to spare, so I turned my back to the window and continued my conversation with Deputy Gray.
Two minutes later, he looked past me with a puzzled expression. I turned around immediately and saw Wendy sitting there grinning like a Cheshire cat. I did my best to hide the disappointment. The phones finally came on and I sat there, pretending that I was glad to see Wendy. But we had just gotten started when I saw her walk up behind Wendy.
I knew it was Debbie as soon as I saw her. She was absolutely stunning. The way she walked was the very first thing that captured my attention. Every move she made was graceful. She wore a bright red leather miniskirt, matching waistline jacket, black silk blouse, six inch red pumps and a red and black leather brim to top it off. Her hair was pulled back into a very neat ponytail that went down her back.
Her hazel eyes grabbed and held me, but her legs were her greatest assets. I forgot all about poor Wendy. Defeat was written all over her face as soon as she turned to look at Debbie. I didn’t give her permission to bring her ass down here anyway. I didn’t care how much money she’d given me. I was gonna just have to reschedule. It was Debbie’s time right now.
A first impression is a lasting impression. I had to show Debbie that I was in control of things.
I spoke to Wendy for about five more seconds before I asked her to leave.
The fireworks started as soon as Debbie spoke, “I told you not to have a bitch here when I came.”
She was bold and ready. That broke the ice. We talked like old friends from that point on and I checked out every square inch of her as we talked. Her make-up was applied perfectly. Sexy lips and subtle cheekbones. Debbie definitely had class.
Our conversation turned to business ten minutes into our twenty-minute visit. She got right to the point. “Eric tells me there’s trouble in paradise.”
That statement caught me off guard. That meant that she was well informed about Lala and the crisis. It also meant that my game wasn’t as tight as I led her to believe.
She ran the show from that point on. Debbie told me that she’d talked to Eric before she came. He told her that everything was coming together and for me not to worry. Debbie saw the deep concern on my face as we talked and she offered to help.
“No, but thank you for asking,” I said. Even though I was hustling, I still was engaged to Lala. I already had my team in place. Debbie would just have to remain as eye candy for now.
Then without any warning, the phones were shut off. Our visit had come to an end. Since I still had a few minutes to sit there while I waited for my escort to take me back upstairs, I gestured for Debbie to standup and turn around for me. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Neither could the other inmates or Deputy Gray.
Then, I heard his voice behind me, “Damn, that’s all woman, Marshall. You might as well let me have that one.”
I replied, “She’ll chew your lame ass up and spit you out, dude.”
Debbie stood there until he put the handcuffs on me. She made a gesture with her hand for me to call her and then she turned to leave. Debbie had left a lasting impression on me. She was the ultimate trophy. My mind was made up, I had to add her to my collection.
But Deputy Gray seemed more excited about Debbie than I was. She was all he talked about on our way back to my cell. She definitely had made my day, but I still had pending matters to deal with.
“Can you give me five minutes to use the phone before you lock me down?” I asked Gray.
He agreed and I grabbed the phone. I had to try Lala one more time. This time, her phone didn’t just ring -- someone answered.
“Lala?” I said, knowing that it wasn’t her voice on the other end. Then, what I noticed beside the fact that this wasn’t my fiancée’s voice was all the commotion in the background. Unmistakable anguished screams and gut-wrenching crying filled my ears.
The hair stood up on the back of my neck.
“Who is this?”
“This is Greg, who’s this?”
“This is her mother.” I heard nothing but pain in her voice as she cried.
“What’s going on? Where’s Lala?”
She struggled to release her next words, and then she spit the words at me like fire, “Lala is dead, Greg!”
I said, “What do you mean she’s dead?”
This time she screamed it at the top of her lungs as if directing it solely at me. “I said she’s dead!” She slammed the phone to the receiver before I could get another word out.
Deputy Gray and I locked eyes for a brief moment. Total disbelief was written all over his face.
I didn’t say a word. All I wanted to do was get to the safety of my cell. I was in cell number 12. It seemed like a mile away as we walked toward it.
The first five cells were within earshot of my conversation and one of them held a Mexican Syndicate member. It was only a matter of time before the rest would know. Lala’s death had just sealed my own fate.
I was already facing the death penalty for murder. The state of California wanted to legally kill me. Now, I’d have four prison gangs that wanted to do the same.
I was trapped in this City Within a City. There was nowhere to hide.
I was just a dead man walking!