Wolfkin/Wolfkind (Gun Court)
“The trials of Shelia and The Veterinarian and the others took place on outer edge of the Wildlands, surrounded by big white stones that had been carved into faces by the winds and the rain. Some say the stones of The Cliffs are made of some kind of hallucinogen and the wind carries with it fine particles that dust over the town and mould us all into little lunatics. I’d be a fool to believe something like that. Every once in a while someone plunges to his death from atop The Cliffs trying to chip off a chunk from the gigantic white faces. I like to think of the rocks as Gods looking down at us in stark judgement.” Rion Amilcar Scott imagines a not-too-alternate reality of Sheilas, shamans, reincarnating chimeras, mutating matriarchies, murderers, and gang leaders vying for power.
The jury voted 11 to 2 to toss The Veterinarian into the river, hands and feet bound but gag removed so it could be recorded if she admitted her crimes before drowning.
As a further humiliation, the judge ordered she be stripped before her execution and, so she didn’t come bubbling to the surface, a knapsack full of rocks was to be affixed to her back.
Your honour, The Veterinarian’s attorney called. We have no quarrels with the death sentence. We understand that you could have chosen a harsher method of execution. That waterway—she pointed to the river—is our lifeforce and birthright as Riverbabies. However, I respectfully request that you allow my client to die clothed and with dignity for the sake—
Counsel, he replied. Don’t test my patience. You’re lucky I didn’t order her stoned to death. Remember, there are no appeals. No take backs. And all decisions are final as you and your organization have agreed upon. Bailiff, please strip the defendant.
As the bailiff cut The Veterinarian’s clothes from her body, her limbs trembled, but she fought to retain her composure. No tears. No words. Not even a look of distress crossed her face. She refused to even glance into the puerile grinning face of the bailiff or the men who tightened the bag on her shoulders and fastened the straps around her bare torso.
Two gangsters loaded the nude woman onto a boat and the men slowly paddled out to the middle of the river. Many flinched when she hit the water—silent as if already dead. There were gasps followed by groans. The Engineer sobbed, covering her face and rocking back and forth.
The sun even seemed to go away at the execution of the verdict. The morning rainbow shorted and fizzled sometime earlier—I didn’t notice when—and the sky somehow became leeched of even the palest colour.
The gangsters began clearing the chairs from the grass before the judge even concluded court for the day. The judge, a squat bald man with sausage stubs for fingers slammed the gavel and dismissed the witnesses and the attorneys.
We will conclude tomorrow with the trial of Shelia, which will commence sharply at dawn, the judge said. Please do not be late.
The gangsters began dismantling the bench as he stood. One removed the judge’s robe. Another removed his rings.
Your honour, johnni, the attorney for all the defendants, called. Your honour. You haven’t answered my question. How do I know my client is safe?
Sweetie, your organization may not be fully aware of the way we do things, but the Washington Family has meted out justice this way since before any of us here were even dreamt about. The Wolf Liberation Front agreed to abide by all rules and outcomes of these proceedings when they contracted us. You ladies sought us out so I ask you to please be respectful of our procedures and traditions, most of which have been in place for generations. The only assurance I can give you that Shelia is unharmed and safe is my word as a member of this family. If the defendant is harmed there will be swift and brutal repercussions. Most of this town understands and accepts how we operate.
I heard the banging of hammers and the splattering of paint against wood. The gangsters had returned to building the gallows. They made grisly jokes and laughed grimly just as the women of the WLF had been doing recently and I was certain Shelia’s life was now worth less than the mosquitoes that had buzzed our heads all day.
The trials of Shelia and The Veterinarian and the others took place on outer edge of the Wildlands, surrounded by big white stones that had been carved into faces by the winds and the rain. Some say the stones of The Cliffs are made of some kind of hallucinogen and the wind carries with it fine particles that dust over the town and mould us all into little lunatics. I’d be a fool to believe something like that. Every once in a while someone plunges to his death from atop The Cliffs trying to chip off a chunk from the gigantic white faces. I like to think of the rocks as Gods looking down at us in stark judgement. When Shelia the Huntress is found guilty and the judge bangs his gavel, I imagine The Cliffs will collapse on us and bury us in white rock for our arrogance and savagery.
jane’s death, I must admit, left us all a bit crazy. It was the stunning lack of detail. No body, just some evidence of a struggle—jane’s puppet lying broken, torn and smudged with dirt and a bit of blood on the Wildlands floor. We all assumed she was buried beneath the river but why we assumed that, I don’t know. The Veterinarian announced jane’s death to all of us, but she said she heard it from louise who heard it from charlotte who heard it from whitney who pointed back at The Veterinarian. The first day of trial, the jury—consisting of seven members of the Washington Crime Family and six members of the Wolf Liberation Front—found louise, charlotte and whitney guilty of conspiracy and the judge sentenced them to 3 years of service, which some of us took to mean a period of sexual slavery working the streets in and out of town for The Washington Crime Family. The vote split predictably between WLF and Washington Family members, the Washington Family all voting to convict and the WLFs voting to acquit.
When the verdict was handed down, the gangsters promptly loaded the women into a white van and drove off from the scene.
Your honour, johnni, screamed. Where are they being taken?
I’m sorry, there are no appeals in Gun Court, the judge replied. I imagine they were working with the feds or the local police. Their convictions were deserved and their punishments just. Tomorrow’s a big case. I hope you’re focused on that and prepared.
And Shelia, never wolfkin, a huntress, a sworn enemy of wolfkind, already hated by the WLFs. Imagine the stories they spun about this woman upon jane’s death:
Beneath a canopy of trees and twinkling white stars as witness, the startled Huntress palmed her pistol as jane approached. It slipped from her sweaty hand and thudded on the ground just when jane was within swinging distance. She thought of scrambling for it but she’d only be overpowered by jane’s tall form and wiry limbs. Or she could run and soon feel a hot bullet blaze through her back, revenge for the many of hers that blazed through the backs of countless wolves. Instead, she first wrapped her fingers around jane’s neck and squeezed with all the force her wolfing hands contained, then she took the fight to the river and forced jane’s head under until jane ceased moving. Shelia had heard about the WLF and the horrors they caused. The wolfers dead. The exploding wolves that turned out to be just puppets, decoys, traps. Shelia could rest now. The horrors were over.
The night before Shelia’s trial, I drank in my basement with robyn and toni just as we used to before taking to the forest with our puppets. robyn swallowed shot after shot of whiskey, chasing them with pickle juice.
Slow down, robbie, toni, said. You’re gonna fall out.
So what if I do pass out, huh, robyn said. We’re not going out into the forest tonight and the next time we do we go to watch another woman die. Only way to live with that is to get fucked up…So, like I was saying…after that I heard jane had hit Shelia in the back of the head with a 2 by 4—
Why aren’t we going into the forest, I asked. We’re the Wolf Liberation Front, aren’t we?
Used to be the Wolf Liberation Front, my dear, toni said. Now we’re minor organized crime figures. Wonder if this qualifies us to me made women. I looked up that judge on the internet, you know how high up in the organization that nigga is? Don’t know how he can even hold a gun with them Vienna sausages he has for fingers. These fools change the rules every ten minutes and them stupid WLF bitches who voted for this shit look all indignant, but don’t say shit. Weren’t they supposed to turn whitney and them over to us if they got convicted?
And the jury was supposed to be all WLFs, I said. How the fuck did we allow our comrades to be judged by a bunch of gangster-ass men?
Gee, who would have thought the mafia wouldn’t play fair with us, robyn said, taking a shot of pickle juice. Look, why don’t we go in there blazing our guns tomorrow morning, snatch Shelia and decoy it out of there.
Against the Washingtons, toniasked. That’s suicide.
Yeah, robyn said. Suicide. You can live with all this? I can’t. charlotte, whitney and louise in that truck. It’s fucking with me.
That’s what I’m saying, I said. Let’s take a trip into the Wildlands and burn that fucking gallows all the way the fuck down
That night we grabbed our puppets and crept into the Wildlands. The fresh coat of paint on the gallows glimmered under the dull blue moon. We saw no gangsters standing watch, robyn and toni seemed relieved, but I wanted to see if all those elaborate plans we concocted to distract them would really work.
The gallows burned bright and fast, I suspect the paint and the glossy finish, and of course the gasoline we doused it with, made quick work of the blasted gallows. robyn emptied a bottle of whisky onto the thing and we danced around the flaming wood for a half hour and then we fled.
Shelia hung anyway the next morning. The judge gave us a sausage finger warning: who ever burned the gallows would be caught, tried and convicted, he said. I admit I shuddered.
The gangsters tied a heavy rope to a branch and shoved Shelia to her death. Instead of dying instantly, she struggled for what seemed like all of time. The gagging and burbling sounds she made still jerks me from my sleep some nights.
Before Shelia died, I watched the rings on each finger of her prosecutor shine their light as he speechified and waved his hands.
He said: I’m going to ask the defendant a series of questions. Members of the jury, your honour and witnesses to today’s proceedings, the way the defendant answers will reveal her character.
johnni, leaned into her client, whispering, I know you don’t like the idea of it, but testifying is your only way out of this.
Shelia stood and said, I don’t recognize the authority of this body.
Did you kill, jane, the prosecutor asked.
I don’t recognize the authority of this body.
Can you describe how jane died?
I don’t recognize the authority of this body.
Where is jane’s body located?
I don’t recognize the authority of this body.
Even though Shelia killed dogs, at this moment, I loved the woman.
I remember her last words shouted from the trees: Mobster, liberator and wolf, I look from face to face, but you all look the same to me. I can scarcely see the difference.
Then she died.
Years later, I thought I saw whitney twice. It had been more than three years since they were sentenced, but no one had heard from them. It’s not as if I regularly spoke to many WLFs. From time to time toni and I got together or, far more often, chatted over social networks. I complimented pictures of her son and quietly unfollowed her profiles when she grew boring. robyn became a wreck and I pulled away to avoid being dragged to the bottom of the river with her.
The first time I thought I saw whitney, I was driving home late at night and I sped past some women working a corner on Angela Street. As they blurred by, I swore one had the face of my comrade. I slowed when I was about a block past them. When I circled back around, they were gone, which I’m ashamed to say, brought me relief and peace. What would I ever say to her? The last thing she’d want to see is a former WLF, probably. And what if she had been working with the feds? I felt my brain begin to ache.
The second time was a few years after that when I was married and bored and my husband suggested we visit a strip club on the Southside. I pretended I was game and promised myself that when our outing was through I would fuck him like it was again our wedding night in Brazil.
It was just a quick glance under the blue lights. A topless woman in a green and gold thong disappearing into the guts of the club. I wanted to follow to satisfy my curiosity. To trail whitney and throw up apologies like hosannas. To remove my clothes and take the stage as a decoy so she could run, escape the black and white we created and enter the rainbow.
I told my husband that my head was hurting and a quick frown passed over his face before he said, OK baby. He gripped my hand and led me into the bright parking lot where I stumbled to the car, rested my head on his hood and began to cry.