***Shitty motel outside of Vegas***
Jolene paced the crappy hotel room. They would be moving to another tomorrow. The past week had been a nightmare. With the help of Donovan’s grandmother and cousins, they had come up with a plan. Jo had wanted to push things, walking into the Law Offices of Tyson, Turner, and Tyson, LLP on Monday morning like nothing happened. But Donovan had threatened to tie her up until this was all over. Even his grandmother thought the idea was too dangerous.
So, instead, she had phoned Gena on Monday morning from Palm Springs. She had told her assistant that she needed some personal time to handle a family emergency. Then she had handed her cellphone over to one of Donavan’s cousins just as Selena had. Donovan left his at his grandmother’s. His cousin had given them a burner for emergencies.
Then they had driven them to Vegas. One of the men took that chip into the casino to cash it out. That had been far more difficult than Jo had thought it would be. It seems that young black males cashing in ten thousand dollar chips wasn’t as straightforward as it should be. Donovan and his other cousin had been about to go in after the man when he finally appeared. Trey had ended up getting both loud and obnoxious until the scene he was causing was not worth the upheaval to the casino.
Unfortunately, if anyone wanted to track that chip back to her, now there was video evidence to link her to the man. But that was still probably better than using her credit or debit cards anywhere. Or she hoped it was. But they needed the money. Even staying at roach-infested dives like this one wasn’t that cheap. And she and Selena needed the basics like clothes and toiletries. They all had to eat, too.
Jo had dared to email Gena’s personal account once from an internet cafe. The only half-decent cup of coffee she had in days. What she learned was not reassuring. Jack and Junior were both angry and pumping the woman for any information she had. If Jo had thought she would not be on the men’s radar, she had been wrong. Not that she was going to admit to Donovan how accurate his worries for her safety had been. She would almost bet that someone had contacted her Mama by now, probably watching the trailer, too.
A week, by her calculations, they had spent over a grand already. And they did not even have reliable transportation if shit hit the fan. She had argued that investing two or three grand into a shitty car or, better yet, a van would be the best idea. But as Donovan pointed out, most vehicles these days had GPS tracking as well as things like registration and insurance.
Driving While Black. It was not a concept that she had understood until now. Being trailer trash, she had tended to dismiss the whole idea of ‘white privilege.’ She would have certainly argued that being white or even a Monroe had never given her any advantages. Growing up, she had gone to bed hungry more often than not. Especially in the long summer months, when there were no free lunches at school. Hell, she had even stolen a few times to feed herself and her younger brother when Mama went off on one of her drunks.
But the idea of being pulled over, even if you were obeying all the laws, being searched, assaulted, humiliated, and perhaps even killed for doing absolutely nothing but driving while black was… Not right. Of course, she had her own fears of law enforcement. But those were with good reason.
Right now, though, there weren’t many options. They could not stay in Vegas. If whoever Jack or Junior had sent to kill them, and she was still trying to come to terms with that idea, but if they were watching Donovan’s grandmother, Selena’s parents, and her Mama, the three of them could not afford to separate. Literally, two hotel rooms in cheap ass Vegas was expensive enough. Three of them, travel, and everything else? Ten grand did not go that far these days. Even eating fast food and junk.
Which wasn’t good for the girl’s baby. Would Selena ever get out of the bathroom? Should she be this sick this soon? The girl was only five weeks along. Most women would not even realize they were pregnant yet. But evidently, the girl had been ‘lucky.’ She was that rare one who got sick even before she missed her period. So ill that she had gone to a doctor. Who ran a blood test that can tell as soon as a week after you conceive.
Being stuck in a tiny, shitty hotel room with a pregnant woman was just about the last thing that Jo wanted or needed. Sometimes she worried that she would lose her shit. But she had made it almost two decades without letting that shit destroy her. She was not going to begin now. But damn, would it be too much to ask for a few hours’ break from the other woman’s vomiting, tiredness, and emotional roller coaster?
“Hey, how you doing?”
Jo jumped; she had gotten so lost in her dark thoughts she had not even heard the door open. That wasn’t a good thing, especially in this situation.
“Where the fuck you think? The same place she always is if she isn’t crying or sleeping?” Jo knew that her verbal attack was unjustified.
Donovan had been nothing but kind to both of them. He took most of the risks, usually going out for food himself. Because he claimed this was one time being a black man worked in his favor. She might have chosen corporate law, but she had read enough about the unreliability of eye witness testimony in law school, especially if you were a black male.
He held up a couple of bags, grease already stained the bottom of one. “I brought breakfast. Hopefully, she’ll feel better after eating.” He sat them on the dresser and walked over to knock on the closed bathroom door. “Hey, I brought food, Selena.”
Jo wasn’t especially hungry, but she opened the bag anyway, pulling out three Styrofoam containers. It was basic, an omelet with toast, that would probably be better for the girl. A massive mountain of greasy bacon, sausage, eggs, home-fried potatoes and onions, and who knows what other stuff, that was definitely his. The last one was pancakes, bacon, and syrup. There was a smaller box with fresh fruit in it, also the girls. “How much did it cost?”
He blew out a long breath, “More than I’d like, but we need to eat…”
“I’m sorry. I know this is all my fault…” And here came the waterworks. Again.
Donovan pulled the other woman to his chest. That absolutely did not bother her. Not at all. She knew as a woman she should be more sympathetic to the young woman’s blight. It was not Selena’s fault that Jack had singled her out of this batch of interns. If anything, this was her fault. How many Jacks of this world had she enabled? Including the man himself. If she had taken his abuse of power to the other partners before, they would not be in this position. But as with so much else in this world, sometimes you just went along, afraid to rock the boat too much.
“This is no one’s fault but Junior. Maybe Jack,” she did her best to reassure the young woman as well as herself. Even if her conscience told her otherwise. “The question is, what are we going to do about it? How are we all going to get our lives back? And make sure that he doesn’t get away with doing this is to more women?”
The silence in the room was more answer than Jo wanted to contemplate at the moment. Instead, she picked up cartons of food, holding both out towards the girl, “Pick your poison.” But she had made her choices long ago. It was just that she had never had any trouble lying in the bed she made over twenty years ago – until now.