The Whore Of Babylon, A Memoir Part 21

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"No! Please," I beg; my eyes well with tears. "I'm sorry. Please!"

"Now is too late," he says. "Jou habe to choose. One girl live, one girl die."

Robyn and Chevy let out plaintive cries of panic.

"Whish one you want to live?" he asks.

"Look," I begin. "If you want to kill somebody, kill me."

As I plead my mind races with scenarios. My hand is still inside my purse and although my palm is drenched with sweat, I am still clutching the Colt. I flashback in my mind to the day that Freddie took me target practicing, trying desperately to recall what he taught me. But in my heart of hearts I realize there is no way I can pull my handgun from my purse, aim and fire before Pena would be able to get off at least one shot, maybe two. I lose, no matter how I play my cards. But I also realize that Pena gets off on fear. I can at least try to stall him while I try to figure a way out of this. Slowly, I pull the .22 from my purse, aiming directly at him.

Pena's eyes register a jolt of surprise and then amus.e.m.e.nt. "Look at jou!" he lets out an arrogant laugh.

I grasp the Colt with both hands.

"If you kill either of them, I kill you," I say, doing my best to inject strength into my voice. "Is that what you want?"

He laughs again, but the amus.e.m.e.nt in his eyes quickly turns to rage.

"No one f.u.c.ks with me, jou hear me? No one!" he shouts. "Jou think jou turn my cholos cholos against me? Make them rat me out for money? I against me? Make them rat me out for money? I run run this f.u.c.king city!" this f.u.c.king city!"

His outburst frightens me. Needles of fear shoot through my veins.

"Look, Pena," I say, trying to reason with him. "You let the girls go, right here, right now, and everybody walks away. I swear to G.o.d, I won't notify the police. Do you even see any cops here? No! Because I did exactly as you said. I haven't called anyone."

As if to make me a liar, a siren breaks through the gloom of s.p.a.ce. My mind races back to the note I left at home for Rob. I should have realized that the first thing he'd do would be to call the San Francisco police department. I grit my teeth in angst. But San Francisco is a big city. Sirens go off all the time. I am hoping that is what Pena is thinking.

"I count to ten, and then I kill one girl. Jou choose."

"Pena, don't do this," I say.

"One, two, three," he starts counting.

He wants me to beg for my daughter's life. But begging for Robyn's life means consigning Chevy to death. It is an impossible option.

"If you shoot either of them, you die. Is that what you want?"

"Four, fibe, seex," he continues his countdown.

The siren, which began far away, now wails louder and has been joined by others. They are so loud, in fact, that they sound as if they are just down the block. Could it be the police coming here? And if so, will they get here in time?

"Leave right now, while you still can," I say. "Because so help me G.o.d, I will kill you," I threaten.

"Seben, eight, nine," Pena continues. He jabs the barrels of both guns sharply into each girl's head. They both let out muted sobs of panic.

Just as Pena opens his mouth to say the word 'ten', a shadowy figure darkens the doorway to the left. Everything seems to happen simultaneously. A look of alarm jerks across Pena's face as he looks to the left and sees a cop. The policeman's gun is drawn. He is aiming directly at Pena's head.

"Drop it!" the policeman shouts.

"f.u.c.k you all," Pena says. He raises the gun in his left hand, aims it at the policeman. Suddenly, the deafening cacophony of explosions shakes the room.

It is only after I fire the Colt that I realize I closed my eyes when I pulled the trigger. When I open my eyes, I see Pena, sprawled on the floor, lying in an expanding pool of blood.

"Drop your weapon!" the cop shouts at me.

I do as I am told and dare myself to look in the direction of the girls, holding my breath in desperation. Chevy sits quietly crying.

Pena was able to fire both guns simultaneously. His shot towards the policeman evidently missed. But the shot from the gun in his right hand, at point blank range, aimed directly at Robyn, hit home.

November 18, 2003.

"Come on folks, let her through," Freddie says. His arm is entwined in mine on my left side. Sister Margaret and Chevy are on my right as we climb the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento. We are flanked by scores of reporters who follow us like a swarm of sea snakes.

"Mrs. Skinner is it true that your husband blames you for your daughter's death and has filed for divorce?" a voice from the pack of reporters shouts into the air.

"No comment," Freddie says.

But yes, it is true. After the dust settled from the shooting a year ago, three things were clear: one, according to police, Antonio Pena was dead by a bullet from my gun and would never again victimize young girls. Two, Robyn paid the ultimate price in the dangerous and harrowing world of child prost.i.tution. And three, Rob will probably always blame me for that fact.

After Robyn's death, when I felt I too would die hemorrhaging tears, Rob refused to speak with me. Even weeks after the funeral we went about our daily lives in silence. Whenever I tried to talk to him, he would either leave the room or the house depending on his state of rage. When finally he did speak it was solely to inform me that he was leaving, filing for divorce, that he could no longer live under the same roof as the person responsible for the death of his his daughter. daughter.

A month later, when served with the divorce papers, I could no longer clutch the illusion that my life would ever again be normal.

I tried reading self-help books, hypno-therapy, and guided meditation tapes to a.s.suage my sense of guilt and defeat.

"Mrs. Skinner, are there any further pending charges against you for the death of Antonio Pena?" a reporter in front of us asks, shoving a microphone in my face.

"Move it," Freddie says, swatting the mike out of our way as we ascend the capitol steps.

The district attorney in San Francisco refused to file charges against me, saying that the homicide was justified and that the death of my only daughter was punishment enough. I was told by more than one cop, off the record, that I had done them all a favor by killing Pena.

Dissolution was the term the judge used in our divorce case. That word reminds me of a letter falling into a stream; the words on the page being diluted into nothingness by the water.

After the divorce, when I thought the iron door of regret might actually kill me, I sought the counsel of a psychiatrist. We danced around the issue and played silly word games, but after the third appointment he said to me, "At the end of the day your daughter is still dead," and I knew I need never go back to see him again.

One day, unannounced, I showed up on the steps of Sister Margaret's convent in San Francisco. She opened the door and saw me and said, "I've been waiting for you." I hadn't seen her in nine months.

Freddie opens the door to the State Capitol. Inside it smells of expensive furniture polish and old books. A reporter, a young woman, probably fresh out of journalism school jostles her way through the crowd and asks me, "Mrs. Skinner, have you gotten over the death of your daughter, Robyn?"

And because she is young and ignorant, I do not launch invectives at her. Instead I recall the words that Sister Margaret used to counsel me; to bring me back to at least trying to want to live.

When I showed up on her doorstep, she invited me in and made me tea. We sat in a small room in the convent, filled with plants and beautifully upholstered furniture, the afternoon sun softly glinting through the sheer curtains. Above the fireplace hung a gorgeous oil painting of Mary.

"Did you know that your name comes from the word 'margaritari', which is Greek for 'pearl'?"

I said nothing, only took a sip of the tea, which tasted of earth and flowers.

"Did you know there is such a thing as a Tahitian black pearl? It is the symbol of hope in man's wounded heart."

I began to cry. "Oh Sister, I have lost the only thing that ever mattered to me," I sobbed.

She set her cup of tea on its saucer and moved in close, giving me a big hug that lasted for the longest time.

"Yes, that is true. But now that you've been emptied of everything important in your life, you have an opportunity to allow the grace and love of G.o.d to fill you. St. Paul discovered that only through weakness was he able to claim the strength of G.o.d's grace and power."

"But how can I ever forgive myself! It was my fault that-"

"Shhh," Sister Margaret said, patting me softly. "There is no room for blame anywhere here. You did the very best that you knew how to do. You made the very best choices you could in order to save Robyn, yes?"

I nodded. But of course, if I had things to do over again, it wasn't just one thing I would have done different, but a thousand. Bushels of choices different than what I actually did; crates of decisions piled one on top of the other, going back all the way to the very day she was born.

"Gandhi said, 'be the change you want to see.' You cannot give away what you do not possess."

Sister Margaret made eye contact. Facing me, she grasped me by both shoulders.

"Chevy and all the young girls like her, like your daughter can be," she paused, "an atonement. You must find a way."

One by one, the four of us must pa.s.s through a metal detector. The reporters too, must pa.s.s, single file through the detector; this slows them down and gives us a temporary bit of peace. We are escorted by a man in a black suit who introduces himself as Mr. Roget.

The young reporter is with us once again, scampering up behind us, anxious to get something for her publication.

"Mrs. Skinner," she says a little too loudly. The sound of my name echoes down the long hallway.

Freddie grimaces, turning to swat her back again, but I grab his arm, stopping him.

I contemplate the reporter.

"What is it that you want?" I ask her.

"Do you believe that Robyn's Law, if pa.s.sed, will really make a difference in the world of child prost.i.tution?"

Robyn's Law decriminalizes prost.i.tution for girls under the age of eighteen and requires counseling and job training along with mandatory twenty-five years to life for the pimps who sell them, will be introduced into the state legislature today, after my testimony.

I level my gaze at her.

"Yes," I say. "I believe that it really will make a difference." I recall Sister Margaret's words to me about the origin of my name. This is the black pearl I will carry inside my soul all the days of my life.

Mr. Roget leads us unto a cavernous room filled with scores of a.s.sembly members from the state. At the center of the room is a table with a single chair. On top of the desk is a microphone.

"That's your seat," Mr. Roget says.

"Can I have a minute?" I ask.

"Whenever you're ready," he replies and disappears.

"I admire you," Chevy says, giving me a hug.

"I admire you you," I say, giving her a hug back.

"Go get 'um" Freddie says, hugging me.

Sister Margaret hands me my papers and secrets her rosary into my palm.

"I will always pray for you," she says, also giving me a hug.

And then, they too fade into the watercolor portrait of people.

I sit down at the table and adjust the microphone. A hush falls over the crowd. Someone introduces me and then gives me a nod to begin.

"My name is Margot Skinner, and this is my story."

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The Whore Of Babylon, A Memoir Part 21 summary

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