in a barrel of lies
By: Sarah Thompson
(By the way-- screw the chapters, I don't know what I'm doing yet, and please remember this is a work in progress, I am doing this for fun, I write to release stress, it is not a true story.)
Stanley Tucci: Special Agent Frank Harrison (1st agent assigned)
Tom Berenger: Special Agent Philip Warren (2nd agent assigned)
Scarlett Johansson: Amaryllis ‘Amy’ Rhodes
Angela Bettis: Lilac ‘Lily’ Rhodes (sister)
Scott Caan: Benson ‘Benny’ Rhodes (brother)
Deborah Kara Unger: Delia Rhodes (mother)
Ray Liotta: Vincent Rhodes (father)
James Brolin: Arthur Pendleton (lawyer)
Tommy Lee Jones: Michael Faxton (judge)
Harvey Keitel: Peter Benson (uncle?)
Setting: present. Setting to change with scenes or chapters.
For every beginning there is an end, for every future there is a past.
(Louisiana, 1984- 8 yrs old)
(relaxing piano solo)
Every child’s got a recollection of memories, both good and bad, they go back to a certain point, the point of no return Benny called it. It’s where they begin, where you begin, and where who you were disappeared, though I guess it didn’t matter any way if you couldn’t remember. Mine begins and ends in two places, in two sorts of categories, the good years and the bad. Though my recollection forgot the good after so long, but once life truly changed, the bad ceased to exist. My life was fractured, well blown to bits technically, but at the point of no return, none of it mattered any more. Well I guess I was lucky to have this life I’ve lived and will keep right on livin’. I owe it to the world to explain, at least that’s what the family said.
“Amaryllis Dawn Rhodes! You put that frog down right this instance! And you wash your hands before you step foot back in this house!” Delia Rhodes, my mother shouted.
“Yes mama.” I replied softly and slid the toad back into the river.
“Watch for crocks!” Benny, yelled as he scooped her away from the water, and twisted and twirled her over his neck like an air plane while she yelled and giggled.
“Mama that frog he is Jack Mitchell, his sister she put a spell on him see, and now he’s a frog, and I kissed him! So’s he can come back to life!” I rambled vividly.
“My goodness Amaryllis you’ve got yourself a wild imagination, maybe you ought to be a writer someday.” Mama grinned.
“Maybe you ought to be a writer someday.” Lily mocked.
“Lilac I will not hesitate to tell your father you’re doing this again, he will wear you out for sure now!” Mama shouted.
“Wear who out?” Papa asked as he entered the kitchen wearing jeans and a stained t-shirt.
“You’re daughter is mocking me again!” Mama said.
“Quit it whichever one of you it was any way.” He attempted to say sternly, but a smile crept across his face.
Lily and I pointed at one another. She was sixteen at the time, and I eight, we both acted my age though. Buddy was nineteen. He was working hard at all the side jobs in the world this part of Louisiana to get himself some where’s else or to college, whichever was cheaper.
On the day of my ninth birthday, Papa came home in a rage. He had been fired. They said he was to intense and scaring customers, and that he had anger issues. Sure he and Mama had a few spits, and he’d hit her once or twice, and he’d even hit Buddy once or twice while he was drunk. But that night, was different.
He’d caused a few bar fights, been charged about a dozen or so times. That night he was really gone. He had been more attached to drinking and gambling and was best at making enemies, but now he was at home, drunk and angry, and Mama was his target.
When I was five, he hit me, he said I was being inappropriate. I was playing outside, when he pulled me away from my friends, and hit me repeatedly. He never liked me so much as he liked Lily, he said I doted on my Mama and was just like her. He also said the world didn’t need anymore people like me, and that I had no purpose.
She was pretty, a Southern girl with a light accent, whom he had met in a bar, and taken home. Gave her a few kids and gave up on her by the time I was seven, by gave up I mean, he was dating other women. He hit her, like he had before, only harder and not like before. This time she went down hard, and well, didn’t come back up.
Mama was my best friend, I helped her in the garden, and to clean the house, and I even played the piano just so she’d sing. How is it for a nine year old, their first death just isn’t as bad as the rest. I didn’t cry so much until I was, well Buddy’s age.
She didn‘t have a funeral, and was never buried. Buddy was working the night she died, and came home late. He didn’t say anything at all to Lily or Dad for almost a month, but when Dad started drinking again, which honestly he never stopped, he antagonized Buddy who lost the fight, when he tackled Dad who shot Buddy while he was sleeping.
Lily was not like me, she didn’t cry when Mama died, she didn’t cry when Buddy died. And she didn’t cry at all when she helped Dad clean his gun later or move Buddy’s body. There was another reason he didn’t like me. I didn’t help him. I was incredibly distraught when Papa killed Buddy. I tried running away, which I guess was a mistake in his mind, but an attempt at escape on my part.
He didn’t waste any time with beating me, he started as soon as he found me. He threw me into the car, and screamed at me, until we got home, where he really got carried away. He ran into the house, dumped gasoline and I watched him light a match, and run for the car.
He looked back at Lily and I and whispered. “ Nothing happened here, and it’s not your home.” That was the last thing he said until we were somewhere in New York. We heard later on the news about the house in Louisiana with two dead bodies found, and three missing. We were the three missing, but that was only his beginning.
Just won’t bother anymore
We didn’t stay in New York long, Daddy made enemies fast. He stole cars, and did drugs. By the time I was eleven, we were in Florida. Daddy was stealing more and more now, and he and Lily went off every night leaving me alone. While we were in New York, I only remember hearing of him killing three people. While we were in Florida he sometimes made me watch as he and Lily would suffocate some woman, or stab some druggie repeatedly for money.
More and more people were after him. By the time I was twelve, my life completely changed. It turned out, one of those people dad had killed was an undercover police officer. Later on, they showed me his picture and I remember him. The night he was arrested, I woke up, and the room was filled with lights, it happened that they were going in for a drug bust, and found my father who was wanted on a handful or more of arrest warrant, and my sister Lilac had about the same.
As they were escorted to a separate car, Papa sneered at me, and yelled for me to get them out of this. But at the police station they talked to me like a person, like my mother did. I felt safe now. Just a few hours before I fell asleep, he was hitting me again, letting some of his gross friends touch me, and lay on top of me. One time, I kicked the man trying, and Papa lost it, and beat me then too.
There was enough evidence for a few more charges when they looked at me, and for a few more when I spoke.
“Amaryllis?” A cool but tough voice asked.
“Amy.” I said. “My mother really liked flowers.”
“My name is Special Agent Phil Warren.” I think he wanted to continue but I grabbed his hand and shook it.
“Nice to meet you.” I said softly.
“Well same to you.” He said and smiled.
“Sweetie your father and sister have charges against them in three states, and you’re an important part of this case, are you willing to be present and possibly testify?” He asked.
I thought about it about as much as any person could in three minutes, before I said no. He looked surprised. Why wouldn’t some one press charges for beating? Or help put the persons who caused them pain in prison?
“If you don’t testify, there is a possibility that they will walk free, there have been other witnesses, but the chances are less that fifty fifty. If we have you there, they could get life in prison. You might not even have to testify. Still there are people out there who can hurt you and we need to protect you. This just makes it easier.” He said trying to coerce me.
“I don’t want to have to see them again, I want a new start.” I said.
“After you testify, you will.” He said.
Before I knew it, I’d agreed, and started my journey as had Lily and Dad. I don’t remember talking as much to Agent Warren as I expected. Though I really didn’t talk to any one on the way to the trial in Los Angeles. Frank Harrison introduced himself the night of the arrest. I remember the night well, but I wasn’t really there. Things were going in the right direction, still you still have that fear of something going wrong.
We said a few casual things back and forth to one another. On the drive to the airport and on the plane. Even as they slept, I staid awake, glared out the window. First time flying was gorgeous, and take off and landing scary. Things were mostly quiet. Frank and Phil talked quite a bit, mostly about me, I heard them while they thought I was asleep.
I knew that once we arrived in L.A. that we would be there for quite awhile. Truly I had no possessions to my name, and now I had no family. I was stuck in a disaster continuing to get more and more frightening. It was when we arrived at the air port I said my first real thing to Frank or anyone really, I just said it aloud and he happened to be beside me, standing in front of the baggage carousel at LAX.
“The adventure continues…” I said.
“What was that?” Frank asked.
“Just mumbling. How are you?” I avoided getting into serious conversation, but I started anything so maybe I didn’t really know where I was going with it.
“I’m good, are you okay?” He asked.
“Do you know where the powder room is?” I asked softly.
“Hmm.” He looked up and around, and then pointed. He stood up as I did.
“You don’t have to go in there with me right?” I asked.
“No, but I have to stand outside, and check inside before you go in.” He said.
“How embarrassing.” I said and blushed.
“For me too.” He said and smiled at me.
Most of the women in the bathroom were caught off guard, and I felt like they were staring at me. They probably were.
“We should talk.” I said, and looked at him with a smile, when we were waiting for our food at the air port restaurant.
“About what?” He asked.
“Are you married?” I asked him.
“Nope, no kids either.”
“Any family?” I asked.
“No one left.” He said, before taking a sip of his coffee.
“Me either.” I responded.
“Have a girl friend?” I asked moments later.
“No. I guess I’m not the dating type.”
“Workaholic.” I said.
“That’s right.” He said and smiled a sort of half smile.
“Even workaholics deserve to be loved.” I responded flatly.
“What about you young lady?” He asked when lunch arrived.
“Not a one, yet any way, I’m working on my freedom, that’s a priority.” I said.
“Good Idea.” He said and smiled.
When we left the air port, we went straight to the hotel. There were two beds and a couch. When we walked in, the guys looked at one another. The room was quiet for a minute.
“I’ll take the couch.” I said.
“We shouldn’t let her do that.” Phil responded to my statement.
“Would you guys rather sleep together?” I asked and laughed.
“No.” They both said flatly.
There was a knock on the door in the middle of my short bout of laughter. Everything went quiet for a moment.
“It’s Pendleton.” A man said clearly.
Phil took his hand off his gun, and opened the door. He brushed past Phil and Frank, only muttering a barely audible. “Hi guys.” before walking over to where I sat on the couch.
“Arthur Pendleton,” He said and shook my hand. “I’m your lawyer.”
I looked at the guys, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or to cry.
“I’m Amaryllis.” It was all I could say.
“My poor dear, you look dreadfully exhausted, did you sleep on the plane?” He asked.
“No.” I replied.
“Have you eaten?” He asked.
“At the air port.”
“Well, how about this, I’ll leave you to relax, have a shower, and clean up, and then I’ll come back, pick you up, and we’ll go shopping and have dinner. Does that sound all right?” He asked.
“Sure.” As I said this, I looked him over. I later told Frank that everything was so strange because I’m not used to dealing with clean cut, nice people. Arthur was wearing these stylish round glasses, and a dark suit. He had white hair, but didn’t look old at all. He just looked smart, so I figured he must be.
The hotel room was a light brownish color. I was eying the room before my shower. Both Frank and Phil had taken off their jackets and loosened their ties. Phil was reading the paper, and Phil was going through file folders and writing things on a yellow legal pad.
I entered the bathroom, and the light flickered. I closed the door behind me. For a moment in front of the mirror, I looked at myself. I’d definitely aged. I looked older than I was. I was developing in the chest area, as well as I was about medium height, and on the average to skinny side. The only clothes I had were the ones on my back.
One pair of jeans, and a red tank top. The tank showcased the many cigarette burns on my arms as well as some scattered scratches, and bruises. Look at this mess, I said quietly. I had one thing that I took with me when we were leaving home, it was our only family photo. When I was only two, everyone stood together and almost looked happy. I took the battered photo out of my pocket, and set in on the counter around the sink. I slowly stripped, and turned on the shower. The water didn’t wash away any of my feeling, and stung my skin.
I washed and combed my long brown hair, and then threw it up in a bun. I put my clothes back on after my shower, and left the bathroom. Both Frank and Phil looked up towards me when I walked out. Nothing had changed, I didn’t look any better, older or younger. Not even cleaner. I thought about chopping off my hair when I got back, it was just too long, and I needed a change.
I didn’t flock at the TV like I’m sure Phil thought I would, because he looked at me strangely when I took the half of the newspaper he had finished reading on the foot of the bed. I had no interest towards television, I watched it a few times at Grammy‘s house, but we never could afford one.
At almost five pm, Arthur showed up again. He didn’t change, I don’t think I looked him in the eye once while we were together until our dinner. He took me to a bunch of shops to get some more clothes, and some nicer dress clothes for court. We parked on a street called Rodeo Drive which was filled with all sorts of fancy shops and stores.
Arthur said that all eyes would be on me from now on, and I wasn’t sure if I liked that. I would be one strange kind of movie star. All the ladies in the stores, worked and worked to transform me, but everything they put me in I said no to. All of these clothes were so expensive. I definitely didn’t feel right spending some one’s money, especially someone I just met.
The clothes seemed endless, I had dress suits galore, and a lot of really pretty things. Even some really frilly under wear and bras that cost almost thirty dollars each! We started talking more when we were finished clothes shopping. He asked what I would be doing when we were not working on my case. I wasn’t really sure what he meant at first, but then he asked if I like music or to draw.
He got me a very nice radio, and lots of books, because that’s what I said I wanted to do. He had someone deliver everything to the hotel room, and we went off to dinner. At dinner I told him everything, every worldly memory I pretty well had.
A few times he seemed to look a little scared, but this was and is my reality. I really had fun with Arthur. He’s a very nice man. He walked me upstairs to the room, and we parted. The guys fell asleep after awhile, but I sat up, staring. I looked out the window and stood on the balcony. I made coffee early, so when the guys woke up, it would be ready.
I met with Arthur for a little while the next afternoon. We were at his office which was huge. I went for a walk after the meeting, and Phil became upset with me.
“You can’t just go for walks, someone needs to be with you.” He said very sternly.
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” I said apologetically.
“There are people Amy, bad people who want to hurt you, We have to protect you.” He yelled.
“Enough.” Frank said quietly.
“Please don’t yell.” I said softly, and sort of shivered.
Everyone was quiet most of the day, we even ate dinner in silence. That would be night number three that I didn’t sleep. I read, and read the newspaper, even had a drink, and some snacks. But still no sleep. When Frank woke up, I asked him to go to the pool with me. I swam vigorously, when Arthur showed up. I knew we would be together a lot, but so far, I’d seen him every day. I didn’t pay much attention. I just kept right on swimming.
“She’s not sleeping,” Frank said flatly, “Something’s wrong.”
“Of course something’s wrong Frank, her father killed people right in front of her, she’s scared…How long has it been?”
“At least three days. What should we do?” Frank asked.
“Well if any one is going to do anything, it should be me, after all I am acting on her behalf.” Arthur said.
“So what are you going to do?” Frank asked.
Arthur stood and watched me for awhile.
“I think I’ll take her home. Maybe she’s having a hard time with the hotel living type setting and just needs a house.” Arthur said.
“Maybe.” Frank said with reservation.
I stopped, and got out quickly, rushing past them into the changing rooms.
“Amy.” Arthur yelled out.
“Hm?” I asked.
“How would you like to stay at my house awhile?” He asked.
I knew what he was going for, but by now, I was just getting to be too tired to argue. “Sure.”
“Great, I’ll be waiting out front.” He said and smiled, before casually walking away.
I made a face in Frank’s direction. “What?” He asked.
“Nothing.” I said quietly.
“Sometimes you just need a hug.” He said and smiled.
I laughed, because gosh was he right. The look on his face was priceless to match. It had also reminded me how long it had been since I’d been hugged, and I searched for a memory of it happening, but I couldn’t find one.
“But mermaids, are not validated until fully dry.” He said and smiled.
I nodded and looked at him. “Where’s miss talkative?” He asked.
“She’s …not doing too good.” I told him.
“Why aren’t you sleeping Amy?” He asked.
“I just can’t Frank, I can’t do it.”
“You need to, or you won’t be well.”
“I’ll be okay.” I answered before going in to change.
Once I had changed, I got my hair cut short, like I wanted and after that we went to Arthur’s house.
“You look tired.” He said.
“Really?” I asked.
“Are you okay kiddo?” He asked and placed his hand on my arm. “There’s only two more days until your first court date.”
“You can tell me anything you know. We are friends.” He said.
“I’m going to read, do you mind, I mean, can I go read?” She asked.
“Sure you can. Lunch is at noon on the patio. If you change your mind, and want to talk, I’ve taken the day, I’m staying home.” He said.
I walked quickly but tried to hide it, to get away from him. I didn’t want to discuss it with him. I wanted to go home, maybe it was dysfunctional but it was home. Better yet, before anything happened, maybe things would have been different if Papa could have just kept him job. None of this would have happened. Not that I was regretting him having to pay for what he did but I didn’t know how to react, everything just confused me more and more.
All this thinking and worrying gave me a stomach ache. I went to the room I would be staying in, and laid down. I thought if I missed lunch, and it looked like I was actually sleeping he would leave me alone. I was wrong. I tried it. I’m not a good liar, I’ve got a conscience. He knocked first, reminded me that lunch was at noon, but came in when I didn’t answer.
I had my eyes closed. It seemed like so long since I had slept, that I forgot what it was like, so I was actually having a hard time faking.
“Aww. She is so pretty when she FAKES sleeping.” He said loudly and I sat up. Immediately he sat next to me.
“I know you’re nervous and scared, but Amy you are doing the right thing here. This is going to benefit you as well as bring justice to the lives of so many others. Your father was not a good man, he won’t harm you anymore once this is through.”
I looked dead at him with a straight look on my face. “It’s never over, it won’t end. There will always be someone who will want to bring harm to me, and I can’t believe you will stand here, and lie to my face, and then insult my only family! Get out!” I screamed.
Arthur frowned, and looked at me. He opened his mouth to say something else, but my anger was very evident, and he was in my only space. I thought over and over what I’d said. I defended my father, who never had or would defend me. I felt horrible about what I said to him. He was one of the only people I had in the world, and now I may have just lost him, I couldn’t take that chance.
An hour later, when I was through thinking, I opened the door to my room and slowly walked to the door of the den where I expected he would be. There he was, pacing the floor. I knocked on the wall, and he stopped to turn and look at me. He grabbed and hugged me, and apologized continuously. Strangely, I began to cry, I wasn’t sure if it was the exhaustion or just that this new person in my life truly meant something to me and I was glad that he wasn’t sore with me.
“I’m sorry.” I cried.
“No, I’m sorry. So sorry Amy.” He said, still holding me tightly.
“I’m just so tired.” I said.
“I know you are sweetie. Just try to get a few hours, I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep if that helps.” He said. I nodded in agreement with him. He hoisted me into his arms and carried me upstairs to put me to bed. After he pulled the blankets up and adjusted the pillows, he closed the heavy curtains, making the room cool and dark.
It didn’t take too long to fall asleep once my mind was set on it. But once I fell asleep, I had a terrible dream.
“Amaryllis Dawn” I heard it clear as day. “Amaryllis Dawn” Who was calling me? And where on earth was I? There was a large group of people with camera’s and lawyer type people, Arthur’s type all over. It must have been the court house. It couldn’t have been the reporters calling me, they didn’t know me, they couldn’t have been there for us. Two men without faces escorted me inside the court house. I walked past the witness stand on the way to my seat, the place where papa was. “Amaryllis Dawn, it’s your father, remember me?” He asked, and repeated until I faced him. “If you would tell all these nice people that they can call off their guns this is just a little family squabble. Tell them you acted out against me, because now tell them the truth, you think it’s my fault Mama and Buddy died. You well enough know it’s not my problem.” Still I continued past him. We weren’t in court anymore, I was alone in an alley. Suddenly, out of nowhere, one of those people Papa was friends with, Hammer was there. Hammer was a large black man who was just like Daddy only he started younger. Hammer had a group of other scary, big, and muscular people come out from behind him. I looked in all directions and there was no way out. Then, Hammer spoke. “We got a present for you from your Daddy baby.” He said and smiled a crooked smile, before the group of them attacked me.
I woke up screaming. This startled Arthur who leapt up and next to me.
“It was only a dream.” He whispered and shushed me, trying to calm me down while holding onto me. He knew after that there would be no more sleep that night. I cried into him warm chest until early morning, when he broke me away enough to make a phone call.
I would have been mad if I had understood the situation, wasn’t sick and tired, or terrified. He called a doctor that he knew to make sure everything was all right. I was still so out of it, when he came that I don’t remember much, but Arthur told me when I woke.
Dr. Herbert Wise came around six am when Arthur called him.
“I gave her a mild sedative to help her sleep, and left some mild tranquilizers to help her relax even with the stress she’ll have in the upcoming weeks. She won’t get any better if she doesn’t take them. I also found that she was dehydrated, so I gave her an saline drip. Just keep an eye on her, she should be fine. If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to call.” The doctor said on his way out.
Arthur called his secretary and cancelled his appointments for the day, and tried to get some work done from home. He didn’t get very far because he himself was also very tired from staying up. He found himself dozing off in a chair to the side of her bed. He only noted his dozing when his cell phone started to ring. He rushed out of the room to answer it, even though, he knew I was completely out and wouldn’t hear it.
His secretary was calling because my father was saying he wanted to see me before the trial. With that, he quickly called Frank, asked him to stay at the house while he went to see the judge.
Frank was not far away, and came quickly. Arthur dashed to the court house and met with my father’s lawyer and the judge. He was working on making attempts to delay my first appearance in court. It was almost seven o’clock when I finally woke. Frank was sitting next to me only on the floor. I opened my eyes and looked toward him.
“What are you doing down there?” I asked.
He smiled. “It’s a new thing, you should try it…really everybody’s doing it.”
I laughed. “How long have I been asleep?” I asked.
“All day from what I gather.”
“Wow.” I remarked quietly.
Frank was not in a suit today, but a black pull over sweat shirt and jeans. I was still in the same clothes from the day before, but felt so much better. He stood up, and sat on the bed beside me. I switched on the television, which sent a strange feeling through me, because I knew how much being in LA had changed me already.
“You’ll like this.” Frank said and I stopped channel surfing.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A movie, a classic actually.” He said, and I saw a smile coming across his lips.
“What’s it about?” I asked.
“A comedy about Frankenstein.” He said. “Called Young Frankenstein, a classic!”
“Hey Frank?” I asked.
“What do you think of me?”
“I think you’re a sweetheart
“Curious I guess.”
“I also think that you are a strong girl whose been through a lot and doesn’t show it at all.”
After a month more of constant switching, staying at the hotel with Frank and Phil or Arthur, I was finally creating a strange kind of routine. Even a core family. Phil taught me some self defense techniques, and Frank and I watched classic movies. Arthur, Frank and Phil were my family. We were always together.
I missed the beginnings of my fathers court appearances, they had enough evidence to put him away. But when his trial began, I was to start making daily appearances. By now, my father wasn’t anything to me anymore. He meant nothing, I rarely even thought about him.
My first day there, I was not only supposed to sit, and pay attention, but to speak from the witness stand.
“Please state your name for the court.” Arthur asked of me.
“Amaryllis Dawn Rhodes.”
“State your relationship with Vincent Rhodes.”
“I’m his daughter.”
My father looked so different, I expected him to be in some orange jump suit or something showing that he was already in jail, because he was. But, he was wearing a suit, and was cleaned up nice. Arthur said his lawyer must have had something to do with that. He still scared me. He stared right at me, the whole time I was on the witness stand.
“Now Amy, you were witness to many of the murders your father and sister committed, was one of which Officer Peter Long?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Could you tell us what happened.”
“I don’t know the date, but I think it was September, because I heard kids getting up and going to school the next morning, my sister and I didn’t go to school because we moved around so much.”
His glare made me choke up. I had already been shaking.
Arthur spoke up. “Let the record show, Officer Long was confirmed to have died on September 15.”
“It was around eleven or so at night, when my father killed Officer Long. Both of them, my sister and dad were big on drugs. They enjoyed being high. Dad would sell them to lots and lots of people. I remember Officer Long because I saw his face on the TV’s in the store windows on the street below where we lived for awhile. We were always together, but I kinda was always in the back, they were afraid the buyers would get a bad vibe from me, because I didn’t do drugs and I was so quiet. But how can you talk to someone when you get slapped for everything you say? Any way, Officer Long must have been under cover or something, because he didn’t look like no cop, and Papa sold to him like he would any one else. Even Lily sold on her own, sometimes, but this night was different. We was all together. After the officer bought, he came back with us, Dad must have been stoned because he never brought any one he didn’t know to well back to where we were staying. So they came back to our place, and Papa shot him. He didn’t use the gun often, he preferred to physically fight someone or to stab them. There were only three other people who papa shot.”
“Do you have any other siblings besides your sister?”
“ I had a brother, but my father killed him. His name was Buddy.”
I am a visual writer. :)