George Pollock State Kid Issue 48 And Now – Showtime! “Did you sell us out?” Kali asked.
Using a common jail-house obscenity, Billy told Kali what he could do with his question. “They was goin' 'round offering everybody a deal. They said, 'Give us stuff on Stone, you walk.'” “Man, they want to get you bad,” Durk said. “Carson and Waters have been talking to each other a lot,” Angel said. “It stinks.” “I know all about it,” Billy said. But he didn't; he was just not surprised that Waters and Carson had been playing both ends. One was a politician dealing with a cheeky kid representing no votes, and the other was a warden dealing with the leader of an inmate uprising with no family and no outside support. To both, Billy Stone was eminently dispensable. In retrospect, the signs had been there. Carson had been subdued, saying little, avoiding eye contact with him. His deep-set green eyes had never stopped darting everywhere. Billy should have taken the Director's pulse, should have given his assuaging fears a booster shot -- that is to say, engaged him in an earnest discussion about his life expectancy. Well, better late than never. Billy strode over to Carson. “We need to talk,” he said. “We have something to say to each other?” “Let's walk.” The Director started to say something. “Now.” It was as if a raw Marine recruit, who had not yet learned how to salute, had ordered his grizzled Drill Instructor to move out, and on the double. And the DI had hauled to. As they walked down the corridor, Billy said, “First, you've been talking to Conroy through Waters. I know all about it.” “Routine business. We deal with each other on a regular basis.” “Mr. Carson, you insult my intelligence. You've been offered a deal to get me. But what you don't know is that Conroy wants you even worse than he wants me. He offered me a sweet deal, very sweet for my quote truthful testimony unquote against you. I also know that the order has gone out to the state national guard to get ready to move on Granite City School. Shall we talk?” “Why not?” “Who's the real threat here? Me? A pathetic bunch of inmates? If we wanted to harm you,
we would have done it by now. To get what we want, we have to keep you vertical and viable. Your new friend, District Attorney Conroy, on the other hand, is a different piece of work. The way he sees it, we kill each other off, the Feds come in and mop up and he sits on top of his rat's nest laughing.” “You're having delusions.” “Do the logic, Mr. Carson. It comes out only one way.” “Okay, Conroy did offer me a deal.” “Some deal. Take it and your career is finished plus you go to jail, guaranteed -- because I'll tell everything I know. Why wouldn't I?” A shadow fell over the Director's face. “Protect yourself, Mr. Carson. Tell Conroy what I told him -- that it's a good offer and that you're thinking about it. Meanwhile, we keep our thing going -- I cover you and you cover me. We both get what we want out of this and we let Conroy do his own dirty work.” “What about the news conference?” “Conroy thinks he's got us both in his back pocket. But he doesn't -- and he doesn't have Waters, either. Our honorable friend the Attorney General is going to find that out at the news conference.” “What do you mean?” “Come to the news conference and do what you have been doing; smile, maybe have your picture taken with me, let things stay on course -- and I promise you that Conroy is finished lying and double-dealing. Mr. Carson, help an innocent kid walk, make a big name for yourself, do the right thing.” “Don't you ever think about normal things, like girls, maybe?” “Every day and every night. All I want are normal things. You've seen my girl, Vera O'Toole. I'm going to go swimming with her this summer, out there, free, where I belong. What about you? Would you rather get screwed or come out of this with the whole bag of tricks?” “Conroy has been slimy, hasn't he?” *** Johnson Johnson flung open the double doors of the dining hall and stepped aside. Into the cage of convicts strode authority and social approbation in the persons of Director Carson, Dr. Bridges, Captain O'Toole and Father Colahan. They walked tall, straight, knowing, radiating self-esteem and command. After them came star power: Billy Stone and Joy Stojak, whose appearance together sent up a hall-wide buzz, and, finally, Congressman Waters. It was the press' first glimpse of Joy since she had run and they descended upon her, hurling questions and poking at her with proboscidian boom mikes. An impromptu photo session erupted. There were shots of Joy and Billy, Billy and Waters, Joy and Waters, and all three smiling and clasping hands. Billy and Joy posed with Director Carson. The other
panel members, non-branded, slunk unnoticed to their seats. Billy and Joy extricated themselves from the crush of reporters and made their way with some difficulty to their seats at the head table. “All your questions will be answered,” Billy said. “Just hold on for a few minutes.” Like balls bouncing off a wall, the reporters went off in pursuit of Congressman Waters who had plunged into the crowd, shaking hands, slapping backs and throwing out campaign phrases like rose petals. It was just another Billy Stone media event at Granite City School for Boys. While Waters campaigned, Billy and Joy sat beside each other at the head table and talked. Johnson Johnson kept the press at bay. “Awesome,” Joy said. “Man, there's TV cameras everywhere. All the big stations are here. Look, there's Jim McGarvey from Channel Nine. We watch him all the time. It's weird seeing somebody in person that you see on TV. He's short. I thought he was tall. Oh, my God, he's looking right at us!” “Looking at you. All they knew was that you had run. Now, here you are, live and in person. You're hot.” “Weird.” “Yes,” said Billy, smiling for the Channel Nine TV camera, “but it's bigger than just you and me.” “Like how?” “Like money. Like sex. Like murder. Like crooked cops. Like animals in juvenile prison. Like riots on the East Side. Like political reputations.” “Sleazy.” “Yes, but the media can surprise you. Take Debra Florsheim over there.” Billy pointed her out. Pad and pencil in hand, she was in earnest conversation with an East Side mother. “Unlike Jim McGarvey, she's here for the story. Too bad her paper only cares about sex, violence, scandal and political dirt.” “By the way, they may not let you out with that tie. Turquoise?” “Vera's idea. I told her it didn't go.” Billy caught Vera's eye as she sat across from them, along with David Weatherall, at the lawyer's table. He waved his tie and gave her an emphatic thumb's down. Smiling, the Transylvanian spitfire responded with a middle finger. Captain O'Toole saw the gesture and his right index finger went to the side of his nose; there was his daughter, in public, with TV cameras and photographers everywhere, and she has to toss off a bird. With Congressman Waters still working the hall, Debra Florsheim came over to Billy. “What's on the docket?” “Congressman Waters is going to announce a hearing for next week. After that, Judge Salera signs the release orders. Things are on track. How is your story coming?”
“Done and filed. I'm going to call in anything new from the press conference.” “I think I've got a book deal with World Books.” “A book! You're kidding?” “A book!” said Joy. “We're negotiating the advance now. It's going to be at least ...” Billy showed Debra the paper with the figure on it. “... that amount.” Debra gave out a soft whistle. “Nothing like publicity for selling a book.” “You know, I have a novel in my desk at home. Maybe you could put in a good word for me.” “Maybe. Is your story front page?” “Sure is.” “Good.” Billy leaned forward and whispered, “ If you mention my book within the first three paragraphs and then at the end, I'll talk to my agent about your book.” “Agent?” “He's sitting right over there.” “I can't be bought.” “So, let's talk news appeal. Innocent prisoner publishes tell-all expose of the system, naming names, going dirty with details, lobbing live grenades at a lot of big shots...” “Hmmmm. I'll talk to you about it afterwards.” “My agent can fill you in on the deal, in case you don't believe me. However, if you talk to him about your novel, I'll be shocked at the breach of professional ethics.” *** Waters took his place at the head table. Director Carson rose to read the remarks that Billy had handed him. He read: Welcome everybody. I am sure you will agree that this day has been eventful and valuable for all concerned, even if at times uncomfortable. The day has not been easy. Facing up to hard truths never is. But I believe we have done so, openly and in good faith. Truth has prevailed. And now I am pleased to present the Honorable Bruce Waters, Congressman for this district and a steadfast supporter of Granite City School. He has some news to share with you. Waters rose, glanced at Billy, and read from a statement prepared by Billy: Director Carson, distinguished members of the panel, parents, Granite City staff and students. Yes, I do have some good news to share so I'll get right to it. Based on evidence presented here today, officials from law enforcement, juvenile justice and the department of social services, have agreed that a court hearing will be convened no later than next week to review the cases of Emiliano Cervantes, Billy Stone and seven others, for the purpose of considering their release.
Waters sat down. The hall exploded. As planned, inmates jumped up and down slapping high fives. Parents hugged and began dancing with each other and going around kissing members of the press. Fairfield students danced with East Side Moms. Inmates on duty in the kitchen banged pots and pans. TV cameras panned around the hall to catch the celebration. Cameras clicked and flashbulbs popped. Billy and Joy got up and hugged. Vera came up to the table and hugged Congressman Waters, then Billy, then Joy, then Captain O'Toole. The scene oozed triumphant resolution and the media captured it all. It was what media land loves best -- a happy ending. Billy and Joy stood up, holding hands, attracting photographers and TV cameras. “I'd like to say something,” Joy said. “Are you sure? You don't have to, you know. The pictures say it all.” “I know. I want to, just so there won't be any doubt.” Billy called for quiet. When the hall settled down, he sat. Joy remained standing. She began, “No one asked me to say anything here today, but I want to. Billy here, my dear friend Billy, is innocent of those ridiculous charges against him concerning me. I have given District Attorney John Conroy a signed and witnessed statement saying so. But I want the world to hear it straight from me. Billy Stone did not abuse me. It was just the opposite. I, and my father, abused him. My father lied to cover up what he was doing to me, his own daughter, in his own home. I lied because I was afraid of my father. That's the truth. Anything else you have read or heard is a lie.” Joy sat down. Billy and Joy looked at each other and he touched her hand. “Thank you,” he said. “You're welcome,”Joy said, moist-eyed, placing her hand on his. *** Billy stood again. During all those months of protesting his innocence, of not being heard, of alternating despair and hope, this was the moment for which he had risked everything. An exquisite, triumphant silence reigned over the hall. Billy spoke: “I am very pleased that the charges against me and the others have been shown to be false. We are looking forward to Judge Salera's hearing next week and our release. I owe many people for this day: Joy Stojak for her unbelievable courage in speaking up today ... Congressman Waters for his tireless efforts behind the scenes... Director Carson for his steadfast support... Members of the panel for lending their distinguished presence to the proceedings... Captain O'Toole for courage and devotion to duty under extremely difficult circumstances... Debra Florsheim of the Sentinel for her resourcefulness and determination in bringing out the truth, and also her editor, Richard Greene, for standing behind her and seeing the story through. “I understand that the first of a series of articles by Ms. Florsheim will appear in the Sentinel tomorrow morning. We are especially thankful to District Attorney John Conroy and Judge Joyce Salera for their responsiveness and devotion not only to law, but to justice. “Finally, with the hope that I can in some way help prevent what happened to me from happening to other kids, I am putting the whole story down in a book. A major portion of
the money from the sale of the book will be used to create a foundation, The Foster Child Foundation, to act as an advocate for foster kids like me. My agent, Mr. David Weatherall, stands ready to consider bids from publishers. Bids may be sent to Mr. Weatherall, in care of Fairfield University, Fairfield, Massachusetts. Publishers wishing further information may contact Mr. Weatherall at the university. He will also be available at the end of the program. “Now, Congressman Waters must catch a plane back to Washington and the members of the panel must return to their responsibilities. As they leave, would you please give them a round of applause worthy of the great good that they have accomplished here.” They all made a grand exit to a standing ovation. For more than an hour afterwards, Billy answered questions from the press. Somehow, every answer he gave turned into a sales pitch for his book. Telephone calls for David Weatherall came into Fairview University in a steady stream. Debra Florsheim phoned in material for a short article about his book. The kid could not stop smiling.