An excerpt from
The Rock and Roll
Queen of Bedlam

Friday

Pantyhose are a tool of the devil.

On a tall woman, the crotch hangs at knee level so she's forced to crouch and shuffle like Quasimodo. If a woman's vertically challenged, they slither downward, pooling around her ankles like a reptilian second skin. My troubles began with pantyhose.

For a Friday, it had been relatively tranquil. No fights, no blood spilled, no weapons displayed. All in all, a good day for a teacher of behavior-disordered teenagers with a few felons thrown in for good measure. The queen of Bedlam, that's me.

After school, I scoot across the parking lot as fast as my walking cast will allow. In forty minutes, I'll be cast-free and ready for my third date with Michael LeClaire. Seriously hot, comfortably rich Michael LeClaire. Rumor has it his parents have ordered him to go forth and multiply. Enter Allegra Thome: stage right.

I'd thrown together a killer outfit. Short, clingy black dress with a neckline that dips down-tastefully-to allow a glimpse of cleavage. Wispy lace panties and strappy heels. Successfully field tested and ready for action, it's stashed in a shopping bag behind the seat of my red Ford Ranger.

Zipping across town to the clinic, I think about my leg and how it will look cast-free: pasty, shriveled and, in all likelihood, sprouting coarse dark hairs. Had I thrown in a pair of panty hose? Of course not! I slap myself in the forehead.

Braking hard, I swing into Sid's Gas'n'Grub. Because Sid is the father of one of my students, Crystal (shoplifting), I like to give him my business. Sid sits on a stool engrossed in a tabloid, his big belly pressed up against the counter. He marks his place with a pudgy finger and looks up. "Hey teach! How's my kid doin'?"

"Not bad, Sid. Just a little language once in a while."

The corner of his mouth draws down. "Hey, Suze! Didja hear that? Goddam kid swears at school!"

Sid's wife Suzy stands up from behind the Plexiglas case where shriveled hot dogs rotate over a heat lamp. She talks around the cigarette dangling from her lips. "What are ya gonna do?" She shakes her head. Ashes fly.

I assure them, compared to her classmates, Crystal is a veritable poster child of good conduct. I pick out my pantyhose and rummage through my purse for $6.73 while Sid peruses the package. He beams his approval. "Good choice, Miz Thome. Ya gotcher midnight smoke, lace high-cut panty, nude toe and heel. New boyfriend, huh?"

"Sort of," I mumble, regretting it immediately. Oh, what grist for Crystal's mill. I'd pay. I wave goodbye as Sid assures me, "Let me tell ya, I'll have one serious f***in' talk with Crystal about her language."

I step into the parking lot where a midnight blue Honda Accord with flipper wheels sits next to a beat-up Chevy; both of them nosed in to the line of poplars marking the back of Sid's property. I know this car. It belongs to another of my students, Jose Delgado. Jose is relatively crime-free, assigned to my class due to spotty attendance, two weeks on, one week off, like clockwork. With his multiple gold chains, smooth olive skin and dreamy eyes, Jose is the hands-down favorite of my behavior-disordered girls.

I lift my hand to wave. But it isn't Joe behind the wheel. It's his guardian, the man he calls Tio Estefan, talking earnestly to a man in the passenger seat. I stuff my new panty hose behind the seat and look at my watch. I still have time to speak to Estefan about Jose's attendance. Dragging my cast, I skitchity-hop across the parking lot calling out in my pathetic Spanish, "Hola Estefan."

He looks less than thrilled to see me and makes shooing motions with his hand which I ignore. As I lean over to remind him of his responsibilities, a series of events explode like a string of firecrackers.

Doors slam. I gape in open-mouthed astonishment as the man in the passenger seat points a gun at Estefan. I'm grabbed from behind and pinned against the car. A rough male voice growls in my ear, "You're coming with me, lady!"

Heart leaping in my chest, I scream, "Sid! Suzie! Help me!"

With a howl of rage, I slam my cast into the man's shin. He mutters an oath, spins me around, rams a shoulder in my midsection and hoists me into the air as I shriek and struggle. My captor, grunting with effort, tells one of his henchmen, "Get the goddamn door open. She weighs a ton!"

What???

"It's the cast!" I yell as he stuffs me into the back seat of the Chevy.

Frantically, I try to scramble out of the car and, in the process, bash my nose into his elbow. Blood gushes from both nostrils. The man recoils and I finally get a look at the guy who not only assaulted my person, but implied I'm overweight. Big, mean-looking guy. Cheeks dark with stubble. Blood-shot pale eyes. Strings of greasy hair hanging below a baseball cap turned backwards.

"Wha ... wha?" I stammer as he digs a filthy-looking bandana from his jeans pocket and tosses it at me. I press it against my nose, gagging from the rancid odor of motor grease and sweat. He backs out of the car, slams the door and tells the guy behind the wheel, "You know where to take her."

At his words, I feel the air leave my lungs. I scrabble for the door handle. There is none. I fight for breath while my brain books a one-way ticket on Air Terror. Who are these people? What do they plan to do to me? Shoot me up with heroin? Sell me into white slavery? Will I end up in some third world country dragging my cast behind me as I walk the streets, forced by a sadistic pimp to turn a trick in exchange for a crust of bread?

"Nooo!" I howl as the driver executes a perfect three point turn and pulls out of the parking lot. Sid and Suzie stand in the doorway of the Gas and Grub, eyes wide with surprise and mouths agape. I pound on the window and scream, "Call the cops!"

The driver pulls out into the street. "Take it easy, lady. We are the cops. What in the hell are you doing in the middle of a drug bust?"

I sink back in the seat, pinch the bridge of my nose to stop the bleeding and moan, "I just wanted to invite him to parents' night."


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