I grabbed the back of the seat in front of me, palms moist from nervous sweat. Did they just say what I thought they said? Were my ears playing tricks on me? I struggled to take deep breaths, slow and easy. It’s a good thing I was sitting down because I might have passed out. Not guilty? The defendant was high-fiving his attorney and flaunting a fist of victory. He then scanned the courtroom and when he saw me, he smiled. I swear, I wanted to knock the smirk off his face. He seemed disappointed that my sister, Angie, wasn’t there with me, but I was thrilled. He didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing the horror and pain that would have shown on her face. She had already been through so much.
She told me that Tom would probably get away with it. I had hoped so hard that she was wrong, but then, when I thought about it, what jury of 12 white people – mostly men – would convict a white man of attempted murder of a black woman? Not in America. Not even in 2019! And the poor excuse for an attorney my sister had – he was a joke. He hardly objected to anything during the trial, even when the defense attorney painted totally outlandish, incredible scenarios as to how my sister got brutally beaten, none of which cast the blame on who was really at fault.
I left the courtroom building, stopping on the top step, hoping to be able to breathe easier – at least clean air, not the stank, vile air of that courtroom where the attempted killer of my sister was just let off the hook. I needed to calm down, because everything in me wanted to kill him. I know that’s not how a Christian is supposed to think, but I couldn’t help it. I tried to take comfort in knowing that hell had a special place for people like him. Angie had never been anything but good to him. She didn’t deserve all those brutal beatings. And for what? Because she tried to share her Christian faith? Because she let him know she was praying for him? What kind of fool gets mad at that?
For the first time in a long time, I wanted a cigarette, but I had given up smoking a few years ago for Lent. Never picked them up since. I guess God delivered me even though I didn’t even ask Him to. Speaking of God, where was He in all of this? My bible says He’s a God of justice. That He protects those who trust Him. That no weapon formed against us will prosper. But this judicial system had just prospered against my sweet sister. It didn’t offer up the justice she deserved. And He didn’t protect her when that son of a gun was beating her with his bare hands – hands that interlocked with hers at that sacred altar where he had promised to love and protect her.
In spite of everything, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful a day it was. My mind went back to a time when beautiful, sun shiny days filled my heart with joy and hope. But not now, and not for my sister, Angie. Nope. Her hopes were just dashed by what just happened in that courtroom. For her, she would continue to live a nightmare – unless something was done. And soon.
Maybe I couldn’t do anything about what had just happened, but I could possibly do something to that jerk so that he would never hurt anyone again. Yeah, I know, the scripture says “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord; I will repay.” But my sister had been through too much abuse. I couldn’t bear to see her suffer anymore. And what if this crazy man decided to hunt her down so he could finish the job? Well, Christian or not, that wasn’t happening on my watch! Not if I could help it.
Once back home, I called an old friend of mine I had grown up with. We were all tight back in the day and I hoped he could do me a big favor without asking me why.
“Hey, Malcolm. Long time no see.”
“Yeah, Olivia. It’s so good to hear your voice. I’m so sorry to hear about Angie. I’ve been following the story on the news. I want you to know I’m praying for you both.”
“Thanks. But, listen, I need a favor.”
“Sure sis. What’s up?”
“Do you remember Mad Max? He used to hang with your older brother, Reggie?”
“Yeah, I do. Wow, I haven’t thought about him in a long time.”
“I was wondering if you’d be able to get his number for me.”
“Mad Max’s number? What would you want his number for? I mean, he’s bad news.”
“I just need to talk to him about something.”
“I guess I can check with Reggie to see if he has it. But that dude’s been in and out of jail so many times, at least that’s what I heard, and he’s probably in the slammer now.”
“I’d appreciate it if you would just ask him. If you get it, text it to me right away. And tell your brother I said hello.”
“Hold up, not so fast. You’ve got me curious now. What in the world would a fine Christian woman like you want with a low jack, good for nothing loser like Mad Max? I mean, I don’t get it.”
“It’s not – “
“Unless… you’re thinking about doing what I think you’re planning and if that’s the case, don’t do it. It’s not worth it. He’s not worth it. Let God handle it, Olivia. He’s perfectly capable of taking care of the situation all by Himself.”
“But you don’t understand” –
“Yes, I do understand. I understand that you’re angry, devastated, and hurting for your sister.”
“But what if Tom comes after her now?”
“Do what you can to help keep her safe but don’t do anything stupid, sis. You might endanger yourself and your sister.”
“I just want him to scare the man, that’s all.”
“Scare? Just how?
“Malcolm, please, don’t give me a hard time. I’ve got to do something. I promise I’ll be careful but I’ve got to help my sister out. I know you say let God handle it but if it were your sister… really?”
Malcolm was silent for a long minute. Maybe I’d have to find another way. Or maybe he was coming around.
“Listen, I’ll see what I can do but promise me one thing.”
“That you’ll pray and not do something you’ll regret.”
“I will pray, but I can’t make any promises about the last part.”
“You still are crazy as ever. Before I go, I don’t know whether you know this but, back in the day, my brother told me Mad Max had a crush on you.”
“Say what? I never knew that. I mean, he was fine and always had girls swarming around him. I didn’t even think he noticed me.”
“Yeah, well, apparently he did. I don’t know where his head is at today, but if he still has a thing for you, there’s no telling what he might be willing to do for you. You understand where I’m going? So do you want to take that risk? You might end up in jail as an accomplice.”
“I didn’t think that far. I mean, I’m so angry I want him dead but I was just thinking about keeping him away from Angie.”
“Again, let the Lord handle it. I’ve got to go but I’ll be praying for you. Remember what the word says – to let God seek revenge. The bible also says the wrath of man doesn’t work the righteousness of God.”
I wanted his help, not a sermon. If I wanted to hear from God, I would have opened up my bible. But I was too mad for that now, and too scared something would happen to my sister. After I hung up the phone, I decided it was time to visit her, to be sure she was okay.
Angie was staying with a friend on the other side of town and whenever I visited her, I made sure no one was following me. As I parked the car, I could see someone peeking out from behind the curtains on the first floor of the townhome where her friend lived. The door was opening as I walked up. My sister ran out and fell into my arms, crying hysterically.
“Hey, baby sis, it’s going to be all right. God’s got us.”
I walked her back inside and locked the door.
“I’m sorry, I’m such a mess. I saw on the news that they let him go. Olivia, I’m so scared. I know he’s going to come after me. I just know it!”
“Calm down, sis. You’re safe here. He doesn’t know anything about your friend Allison, right?”
“Right. But he’s a former police officer. He’s very well connected. I’m sure he could find out whatever he wanted to.”
I hated seeing her like this. The scars on her face were a constant reminder of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of this man and now to have to live in constant fear for her life? Something needed to be done about that monster and soon.
“I’m gonna take care of this, Angie. He’s not going to hurt you, I promise.”
African American Fiction