An Excerpt from SEX, SIN & BROOKLYN
by Crystal Lacey Winslow
COLD CASE FILE TAKEN FROM THE DESK OF THE 88TH PRECINCT IN BROOKLYN REPORTED TO THE DAILY NEWS:
“Four years ago, an 18-year-old white female was found bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat and left naked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It took weeks for her body to be discovered in a used suitcase. There were defensive wounds on her upper and lower arms. No forensic or trace evidence was found at the scene or on her persons. The body remained at the morgue unidentified until finally being carted off to Potters Field. When three more bodies were found, all fitting the same modus operandi, authorities began to suspect we had a serial killer on our hands targeting Brooklyn. Each victim, ranging from late teens to early twenties had a lot of similarities. They all were dark-haired women wearing their hair parted down the middle and were all bludgeoned with a hard object. Detective Darren Wilkens noticed another similarity, something that’s the most telling clue. The murders are carried out in the same manner in which a 1974 serial killer executed his victims. Once dubbed The Poster Boy of Serial Killers, Theodore Bundy terrorized the nation until he was executed on January 24, 1989. If Ted Bundy hasn’t killed these victims, the question is, who? We have copycat murderer in our midst….”
I always did as I was told. It was easier that way. Most times I stayed out of people’s way because I felt as if I were a burden. My life has been one big, plump tear since the death of both my parents. I had been living with my grandmother ever since the 1986 American Airlines plane crash. I was on the plane, too. Only I didn’t die. There were 119 people on the plane when it went down. An elderly man held on for fifty-two days before he succumbed to his injuries. Miraculously, I came out unscathed. My grandmother said God speared me because he must have something great for me to do with my life. At this point, I can’t really agree with my grandmother, but I don’t tell her that. I know I should be grateful that I lived but God took both my parents. I’ve had to go through life feeling remorseful, empty and alone. It’s rumored that the only reason we were all on the plane is because my mother wanted a better life for me and decided to leave the south and move back to Brooklyn, New York.
Today makes exactly three years since I broke up with my boyfriend, Jason. He was my high school sweetheart, and we dated off and on for ten years. He was my first and only love. During the relationship, he changed. In a rush to be grown, when I turned seventeen we moved in with each other, which was a mistake. We were too immature. When I was younger, I thought his little bouts of jealousy were cute. I thought it showed how much he loved me. He would control me verbally, telling me what I could and couldn’t do. That soon escalated to being controlled physically. The first time he slapped me he apologized by holding me all night. The first time he hit me with a closed fist he apologized by making love to me. The first time he gave me a black eye he apologized with gold hoop earrings. Needless to say I stayed for six more years enduring his infidelities, physical and mental abuse. I can’t give myself credit for finally finding the strength to leave because he put me in a situation where I just couldn’t stay. Two weeks before my twenty-fourth birthday I found out that I was pregnant. I had been trying to get pregnant since I turned eighteen. I was elated. Having my family ripped from me, I always longed to be a mother and a wife. When I told him he lashed out and admitted that he had fathered three children in the past two years by three different women. I thought this was a cruel joke, that he was trying to scare me. But then he went up into the closet—our closet—and pulled out photos of kids that he’d hidden over the years. I stared at three little souls that looked just like him. My him…I was numb. For the following weeks he wouldn’t speak to me. He gave me the silent treatment while walking around our apartment with an attitude, throwing and kicking things. I was the one who should have been walking around with an attitude, but somehow he manipulated the situation and made himself the victim, and I was his worst enemy. At that point I decided to have an abortion. Not to keep him but to rid myself of him. Now I look back retrospectively and wish I had kept my baby.
When I got up the courage to walk away, Jason said I could leave with only what I came with. Meaning he’d keep all the gifts, clothing and even the Yorkshire Terrier he’d bought for me. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down. I got away from him and moved back in with my grandmother, Nana. She owns a small, decrepit house on Vermont Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, that has seen better days. Nana has been in this house for over forty years. She had gotten the down payment when my grandfather died and left her a ten-thousand-dollar life insurance policy. Back in those days she was well off. She took the money and made a deposit on this house. Then she met her second husband and had her last child, a son. Her second husband and his family used Nana for everything she had. She was a hardworking woman who supported her whole family on only her income. When she got arthritis in her hands and couldn’t work he stayed around, unemployed, and lived off of her disability checks. He would still be here mooching off Nana had he not found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was shot and killed in a botched robbery attempt of the liquor store on Linden Boulevard, next to the Times Square Store.
Through Nana’s guidance, I was fortunate enough to get a city job when I graduated from high school. Nana had me apply for every exam that came out in the Chief, a local paper that lists all open-competitive city jobs. I took about four exams—from conductor for the New York City Transit Authority to clerk for the Unified Court Systems. I scored high on each exam but the New York City Law Department called first. I’ve been working there for three years as a paralegal, and I get paid close to forty thousand dollars annually, which is really great for someone without any kids and living with virtually no overhead. But I dream for more.
I’ve been fortunate enough to save close to nine thousand dollars in my bank account and plan on investing that into a business very soon. I’ve always had an eye for fashion, and I’m an excellent seamstress thanks to Nana. She taught me to sew when I was no older than seven. I can sketch, cut patterns and stitch very well, and I’ve never technically studied fashion design. Nana taught me everything. I plan on opening up my own boutique, Spoiled, in the very near future. I’ve already gotten the name registered and trademarked with a hot logo. I want Nana to help me run it but I know she’s too sick. She’s more excited than me. It’s all we talk about once I come home from work.
I got home from work around 6:30 P.M. and raced inside to cook for Nana. She can’t get around like she used to. First, I went into my room to strip off my stuffy business clothes. I stripped down naked then stopped momentarily to admire myself in my mirror. I stared at my figure: curvy hips, small waist, full breasts. I had French vanilla–colored skin with a small, straight nose, high cheekbones and full pink lips. When I had my natural hair color, which was jet-black, everyone would mistake me for Alicia Keys. When I’d get my hair braided, I had to actually convince people I wasn’t her, the resemblance was so strong. Now that I’ve cut my hair into a Mohawk and bleached it blond, people say I resemble Eva Pigford from America’s Next Top Model. An edgier Eva.
I turned around in the mirror to see my tattoo collection sprawled creatively on my back. I had a bowtie above my ass and butterfly tattoos flying around my back, over my arms and circling my right breast. I remember going to Washington, D.C., to a party in club Dream now known as Love and this guy told me that there was a dancer in the Maryland area that had the same tattoos as I did. I think he said her name was Wild Cherry. I told him that he must be mistaken but he was adamant about it. I’m thinking what the probability would be for that to be true….
After I threw on a white tee and a pair of sweats, I went in the back to Nana’s room. I opened her door knowing she’d be watching The Jerry Springer Show.
“Nana?” I called as I approached her room. She always kept her door closed.
“Yes, pumpkin,” she responded as I pushed open her door. It was freezing in her room. She always kept the window cracked no matter how cold it was outside to try and mask the fact that she was smoking cigarettes despite that fact that her doctor already warned her to quit.
“What are you doing, old lady?” I joked and jumped on her bed, and without hesitating, I snatched the cigarette from out of her mouth. She smiled a toothless grin because she didn’t have her dentures in. She looked so adorable smiling at me with all gums.
“You caught me, huh?”
“Damn right,” I said and rolled my eyes as if I were angry.
“Nana needs something to calm her nerves. You know they shot Noah today and Adrienne finally admitted that Jake isn’t the father of her baby.”
She was talking about her soap operas that she’s been watching for close to thirty years. I just shook my head, planted a wet kiss on her leathery cheek and told her I’d go and make dinner.
While I was making smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli there was a knock at the door.
“Who?” I called from the kitchen. But instead of someone answering they just knocked louder. I turned my pots down to a low simmer and went to the door. I looked through the peephole and there stood my aunt, Kim. I needed Nana to handle this one.
“Wait a minute,” I yelled and ran to get Nana. “Nana, Kim’s here.”
“What she want?” Nana said, trying to get up from the bed. Her heavy weight made her struggle.
“Nana, what she always want? Money. I’m not giving her any money, Nana. I need you to help watch her. She’s too quick. She’ll steal something so quickly I won’t realize it’s gone until weeks later.”
“Don’t worry. I got somethin’ for her ass,” Nana said as she finally got to her feet. Nana was a large woman bordering on the line of obesity. Her legs were swollen and weak, which caused her to walk with a cane. She also had type B diabetes and had to check her urine every morning to test her sugar levels.
Meanwhile, Kim was banging the door down.
Nana and I walked to the front door together. As I opened the door to address Kim, a rank odor permeated our front foyer. Nana stood at the front door entrance with her hands firmly on her hips, and I positioned myself next to Nana’s side.
“Whatchu want, chile?” Nana asked Kim. I looked at Kim whose eyes looked glassy, and her body looked emaciated. Her mouth was dry and white around the edges. Her clothes were worn, and she smelled awful. Her once long and silky hair had matted up and broken off in various places. Then I looked at Nana and saw the hurt in her eyes. Kim was her firstborn, and she’d lost her to the streets. Kim started getting high off weed when she was thirteen years old and graduated to any drug she could get her hands on. I couldn’t say she was a crack head because someone might catch her sniffing dope. Just when I was about to call her a dope fiend, she’d be back to sucking the pipe. Now, I’ve heard she’s tried the drug of choice for suburban housewives, methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.
Nana had three children. Kim; my mother Gina, who was killed in the plane crash; and Corey, the youngest of them all. He’s even younger than me at nineteen years old. I’m twenty-seven. He doesn’t work and never wants to. All he does is live off women. He lived off Nana’s disability checks before she kicked him out to go live with one of his baby mommas in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He comes around every first of the month to beg for a few dollars from Nana, and she gives it to him. No matter how hard she tries to shut her no-good children out of her life, she can’t.
“Oh, I can’t come in?” Kim said as she glared at me. “I’m your only child, and this is the way you treat me?”
“Kim, we go through these shenanigans all the time. You’re not my only chile. God blessed me wit’ three children.”
“Well I’m your only girl child that’s livin’. You can’t replace me with Jinx. That’s exactly what she is, a Jinx. My sister put Jinx ‘bad-luck ass’ on a plane, and the whole fuckin’ plane blew up.”
“Stop talkin’ foolishness, chile. You workin’ my nerves,” Nana chastised her while holding her heart as if she couldn’t breathe.
“How she the only thing that lived?” Kim pursued. “The whole fuckin’ plane turned into kibbles and bits. Nothin’ was left except the one seat she was sittin’ in. You tell me how that happened?”
“Chile, why don’t you go and mind your own business and leave this here girl alone. She’s been through enough.”
“MY SISTER IS DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU, BITCH,” Kim screamed with her melodramatic antics and slapped my face so hard my ear started ringing. My head snapped back, and I nearly lost my balance.
Instinctively, I returned her slap with a swift kick dead in her pussy. She crouched over in agony and screamed out in pain. Nana jumped between us to stop us from fighting. I hated that on almost every occasion I had to defend myself from Kim. Sometimes when she has those drugs up in her no matter how hard I fight, she remains unfazed. Her whole body is numb. That’s why she likes to pick fights with me. Not to mention Nana would give her a few dollars just to leave me alone.
“Chile, you dun fell off the coo coo truck. Git your crazy ass out of my house before I call five-0,” Nana yelled and pushed Kim out. Before she left, Nana shoved a twenty-dollar bill in her hand then slammed the door. As she left, I could hear Kim threatening to beat me up when she caught me leaving for work. I ignored her because my mind had gone back to that fateful day when I awoke out of my sleep to hundreds of people screaming at the top of their lungs. I remembered how queasy my stomach felt and the fear in my parents’ eyes. Every time I think about that day I get goose bumps. The memory gives me a headache.
Why didn’t I die? Maybe Kim was correct. Maybe I was a Jinx.