T is for Trespass - Page 122/144


“That’s the best I can do.”

“No doubt.”

My gaze strayed to his right hand. “Tell me something. Is that a prison tattoo?”

He glanced at his tattoo, then put his thumb and index finger together to form a pair of lips, which seemed to part in anticipation of the next question. The eyes permanently inked on his knuckle really did create the illusion of a little face. “This is Tía.”

“I heard about her. She’s cute.”

He held his hand up close to his face. “Did you hear that?” he said to her. “She thinks you’re cute. You want to talk to her?”

He turned his hand and Tía seemed to study me with a certain bright interest. “Okay,” she said. The unblinking black eyes settled on mine. To him she said, “How much can I tell her?”

“You decide.”

“We were inside twelve years,” she said, “which is where we met.”

The falsetto voice he projected seemed real enough to me and I found myself addressing my questions to her. “Here in California?”

She turned and looked at him and then looked back at me. Despite her resemblance to a toothless crone, she managed to appear coy. “We’d prefer not to say. I will tell you this. He was such a good boy, he got out on an early release.” Tía bobbed over to him and gave him a big buss on the cheek. He smiled in response.

“What was he in for?”

“Oh, this and that. We don’t discuss it with people we’ve just met.”

“I figured it was a child molest since his daughter won’t let him see his grandsons.”

“Well, aren’t you quick to condemn,” she said, tartly.

“It’s just a guess.”

“He never laid a hand on those little boys and that’s the truth,” she said, indignant in his behalf.

“Maybe his daughter feels sex offenders aren’t that trustworthy,” I remarked.

“He tried talking her into supervised visits, but she wasn’t having any of it. He did everything he could to make amends, including a little side deal with some unsavory gents.”

“Meaning what?”

Tía tilted her head and gestured me closer, indicating that what she was going to say was highly personal. I leaned down and allowed her to whisper in my ear. I could have sworn I felt her breath stir against my neck. “There’s a house up in San Francisco where they take care of guys like him. Very tacky place. N-O-K-D.”


“‘Not our kind, dear.’”

“I don’t understand.”

“Castration.” Tía’s lips pursed at the word. Melvin watched her with interest, his expression blank.

“Like a hospital?”

“No, no. This is a private residence, where certain surgeries are done under the table, as it were. These weren’t licensed medical doctors, just men with tools and equipment who enjoyed cutting and sewing, relieving other fellows of their urges.”

“Melvin volunteered for that?”

“It was a means to an end. He needed to gain control of his impulses, instead of them controlling him.”

“Did it work?”

“In the main. His libido’s down to almost nothing and what desires he has left, he manages to subdue. He doesn’t drink or do drugs because he can’t predict what Demons will emerge. Sly? You have no idea. There’s no way to bargain with the Evil Ones. Once they’re up, they take charge. Sober, he’s a good soul. Not that he’ll ever convince his daughter of that.”

“She’s a hard-hearted girl,” he said.

Tía turned on him. “Hush. You know better. She’s a mom. Her first job is to protect her little kids.”

I spoke to Melvin. “Aren’t you required to register? I called the probation department and they never heard of you.”

“I registered where I was.”

“If you move, you’re supposed to reregister.”

Tía intervened. “Technically, yes, hon, but I’ll tell you how it goes. People find out what he was convicted of. Once they know, the whispering starts and then the outraged parents march up and down outside his house with picket signs. Then the news trucks and the journalists and he never has another moment’s peace.”

I said, “It’s not about him. It’s about the kids he abused. They’ll never get out from under that curse.”

Melvin cleared his throat. “I’m sorry for the past. I admit I did things and things were done to me…”