Vengeance, p.1
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  For my parents, Jim and Lib. Thanks for showing me what it means to be loved unconditionally simply for waking up in the morning.

  Intermittent Explosive Disorder

  Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or other temper tantrums may be signs of intermittent explosive disorder.

  People with intermittent explosive disorder may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. They may also injure themselves during an outburst. Later, people with intermittent explosive disorder may feel remorse, regret, or embarrassment.

  Explosive eruptions, usually lasting less than thirty minutes, often result in verbal assaults, injuries, and the deliberate destruction of property. These episodes may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months of nonaggression. In between explosive outbursts, the person may be irritable, impulsive, aggressive, or angry.

  Source: The Mayo Clinic



  “Rape is a more heinous crime than murder since the rape victim dies throughout the period she lives.”

  —Amit Abraham


  Saturday, September 18, 1993

  10:18 p.m.

  The Black Screw

  Los Angeles, California

  Ladonna, get your little fast ass over here!”

  Hannah was drunk as all get-out as she rubbed her hands up and down the chest of a dude who called himself Minister of Seduction. He was about six three and built like a truck. Not to mention the thirteen-to-fourteen-inch dick hanging in between his chiseled thighs. He was bouncing his dick up and down her behind as “Whoot, There It Is” by 95 South pumped through the speakers.

  I was returning from the bar with two blow jobs—apparently the drink special of the night because a lot of the ladies were drinking them from shot glasses. I wasn’t a fan of the taste of coffee but was willing to give the concoction of Baileys Irish Cream and Kahlúa, amaretto, and whipped cream a try. It was my twenty-first birthday and I had been waiting for the chance to do two things: drink some liquor legally, and drink it at a club. Hannah had made both dreams come true, albeit, it was not quite the kind of club that I had in mind.

  I couldn’t believe that she had taken me to a strip club—the Black Screw. There were at least two dozen half-naked men tickling the fancy of the ladies who ranged in ages, races, and levels of intoxication. Alcohol definitely made people loosen up, but I knew that already from all my concerts. Even though I was a superstar already by that age, no one recognized me in the club. I always wore a veil onstage. My physical scars were gone, and I was totally unrecognizable from the prior version of me. Yet, I still was not quite ready to embrace my beauty enough to put it on display in front of the world.

  I had led a complicated life—a serious understatement—but I was finally happy with the family that I had always wanted. Daddy was back at the Beverly Wilshire on a business call with his partners in Japan. Part of “the conditions” for me to even pursue a music career was that Hannah had to always travel with me—a nanny of sorts.

  Yes, I was “of age,” but I still needed her. I realized that one day she would want to—and need to—go discover herself. She was already in her early forties but still trying to figure out what she truly wanted to do for a career legally. At least by Daddy paying her, she was able to stop stealing for a living. I loved Hannah so much. She was the only true friend that I had ever had. She had been there for me when no one else was. She had seen my first round of tears, caught my second round, and was helping to prevent a third. I would always love her for that.

  “Whoot, There It Is” faded out and “Knockin’ Da Boots” by H-Town came on as the sexy announcer / hype man introduced the next act. I reached Hannah and handed her a blow job as Minister of Seduction started gyrating his hips toward a woman old enough to be Hannah’s mother at the next table. She straight up grabbed his dick through his G-string and started caressing it like the Holy Grail.

  “Are you ladies ready for some serious dick action?” the announcer yelled out, and received a bunch of “hell yes,” “damn right,” and “bring on the dick” responses.

  “I’m talking massive, enormous, long and strong, hard-as-nails dick!”

  It sounded strange to hear one man describing another man’s dick, but I giggled and guzzled down my shot. I expected to be drunk within seconds but that didn’t happen. I was going to need quite a few blow jobs to feel something. At least, that is what I thought.

  “Ladies, ladies, ladies! Coming to the floor here at the Black Screw are the set of twins who always bring on double delight!”

  Hannah screamed out, “Twins? Oh, hellz yeah!” She nudged me with her elbow. “Don’t you tell Richard I took you to a strip club,” she added, referring to my father.

  “Hannah, I’m grown,” I replied. “Besides, this is fun. I thought we were going to a dance club, but this is a great way to break me into adulthood.”

  “You’re a singer,” she said as she grabbed at the six-pack abs of a male dancer named Daddy Longstroke walking through. “You’re always around dancing, but not this kind of dancing.”

  We both laughed as the announcer went on. “Here they come, and I do mean come. The North Pole and the South Pole are about to make some panties wet up in here.”

  “Damn,” was all I could say as two pieces of hunk slid out on the stage from opposite directions on their knees, with a single long-stemmed rose in each of their mouths. They were dark chocolate with hazel eyes and had on red silk boxers and black boots with Santa Claus jackets and hats. “Christmas has come early this year.”

  I was a bit tipsy after all from that one shot. I was talking crazy and totally unlike myself. I wasn’t even impressed with fine men on that level. I was around them all the time because my backup dancers were no joke. Two of them were only checking for men, though, but they were still fine.

  “Knockin’ Da Boots” was the perfect song for the twins to show off their stuff. As they spun around on the stage and women tossed money at them, the announcer asked, “How many of you ladies think you can climb one of their poles?” as they both lowered the front of their boxers, revealing long-ass dicks covered in thin fabric. You could see the veins popping out of their dicks through it.

  “I want to climb the North Pole!” Hannah yelled out. She chuckled and poked me in the arm. “She’ll climb the South Pole!”

  They got to the part of the song where they said it was the intermission and that women should go get their towels. Someone threw two red towels on the stage from the back and, by that time, the twins were down to their G-strings. They placed the towels in front of their groins and then stepped out of the G-strings, leaving all of us to imagine what was hanging behind the towels as “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd came on. That was all she wrote. The women in the audience completely lost it as the twins came down the steps into the crowd and let chicks take turns copping a feel under the towels.

  “You having fun?” Hannah asked as she called over a waitress to get some more drinks. “I shouldn’t have sent you to get drinks. We need something harder, pun definitely intended.”

>   I had gone to the bar to get drinks only to see if I would get carded again. I was so excited about flashing my license at the front door, proving that I was twenty-one as of that day. I had wanted that feeling again but hadn’t known what to order once the bartender asked what I was drinking, so I had gone with the flow.

  “Give us two sea breezes,” Hannah instructed the waitress. “And make those joints strong. Double up that liquor.”

  “That’ll be two dollars extra per drink,” the waitress informed her.

  “Well, I guess it’s a good thing Ladonna here”—Hannah pointed to me—“is filthy rich.”

  The waitress looked offended and then started eyeing Hannah suspiciously. A few other women had thrown shade about Hannah’s appearance earlier and I was ready to jump anyone who came out the side of their neck with any negative comments. I was hoping the cute little waitress with the dreads wouldn’t be the one to end up getting my ass whooping that was on deck.

  “I was just informing you,” the waitress said sarcastically. “The manager insists on it. Some people start tripping when they get their tabs.”

  Hannah shrugged and turned her attention back to the stage, offending the waitress even more.

  “The surcharge is cool,” I said. “In fact, bring us four of them so we won’t have to track you down for the next round.”

  The waitress smiled at me and actually looked like she wanted to jump my bones. “No problem, sweetie. I like that top,” she yelled out over the music.

  As she walked away, I asked Hannah, “What’s in a sea breeze?”

  “Cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, and vodka.”

  “Sounds delish.”

  “Speaking of delicious!” One of the twins was upon us, in all his glory and with all his dick. Hannah started feeling his chest, from the middle of his pecs down to the top of his pubic hair on his lower torso that was a tease of what was below.

  His brother caught me off guard by picking me up from behind and damn near impaling me on his dick through my jeans. I found it amusing—at first—but then he got kind of rough with me. He tried to bend me over and pretend to fuck me from the back. That was when it all came rushing back and I exploded.

  I started yelling and attempted to push him off me. “Get off me! Get the fuck off!”

  Hannah didn’t hear me apparently. She was still caught up with flirting with his brother.

  The one behind me started moving his hips faster and faster and some of the other women were telling me to “take that dick,” “get it, sister,” and “work that billy over.”

  I started having a panic attack and grabbed for my purse on the table beside me, reaching inside to get my can of pepper spray. I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger over my shoulder and spray not only the beast trying to attack me but also anyone else within range.

  He yelled out in pain and called me a bitch. His brother yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?”

  Hannah immediately took me by the arm and started pulling me toward the exit. “Let’s go!”

  There was a panic in the club, but we rushed out before the bouncers at the door could be alerted that I had done anything. Hannah pushed me into the back of the limousine that was waiting out front for us.

  “Back to the hotel,” Hannah instructed the driver, who immediately took off as the twins and the waitress made it out the entrance to search for us.

  “I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “Please don’t tell Daddy what happened.”

  “It’s my fault,” Hannah replied. “I wasn’t thinking. I never should’ve taken you there in the first place.”

  I started crying. “Will I ever be normal, Hannah? How am I ever going to fall in love if I can’t stand a man touching me?”

  “That’s what your therapy is for. It takes time.”

  “It’s been six years!” I dried my tears with my sleeve. “This is never going to end.”

  “Everything ends eventually, or at least improves,” she reassured me. “You’re going to have to learn to forgive them. They were kids, like you, and made a huge mistake.”

  “A mistake? What they did to me wasn’t a fucking mistake!” My chest tightened as memories of the past rushed through my mind. “They ruined my life!”

  Hannah took my hand. “We’ve been through this. Your life is not ruined, Ladonna. You’ve been given an opportunity for a new beginning. Richard loves you and he’ll never let anyone hurt you.” She ran her fingers from her other hand across my cheek where my scar had been removed by several plastic surgeries. “You’re stunning, you’re talented, and you’re famous. I only wish that you would let the world see the real Wicket. You shouldn’t hide behind that veil onstage.”

  “But what if someone recognizes me?” I asked as tremors shot through my body.

  “Think about it. Who on earth would put two and two together? As far as the world is concerned, Richard adopted you nearly a decade before it actually happened. You don’t look the same. Money talks, and Richard has made sure that the truth will never come out.”

  “Maybe it should come out,” I said. “Maybe I should go back and fuck up their lives like they fucked up mine.”

  “That’s not truly on your heart.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because I know you. There’s no reason for you to go back there . . . ever!”

  I leaned back in the seat. “I should’ve been there for Grandma when she . . .”

  “You can’t change that. I’m sure she only wanted you to be happy. You used to write her letters. She knew you loved her.”

  “Yeah, letters with no return address. That was so immature of me.”

  “It was the only thing that made sense at the time. Stop beating yourself up. It’s not easy living a triple life.”

  I let her words sink in: a triple life. That was exactly what I was doing. I was three women living inside one body.

  There was Caprice Tatum—a scared, scarred young girl suffering from intermittent explosive disorder.

  There was Ladonna Sterling—the world-traveled, seemingly confident daughter of billionaire Richard Sterling.

  And then there was Wicket—the veiled, sensual singer taking the music industry by storm with her first hit album in constant rotation at radio stations around the globe.

  No wonder I was so fucked-up in the head!

  Sunday, October 25, 1987

  2:36 a.m.

  Atlanta, Georgia

  As I approached the doorway, three college-aged guys were lingering around, smoking cigarettes and carrying backpacks. They had probably come from other HBCUs for the Morehouse homecoming game and were headed back after the parties ended so they could attend class on Monday. One of them had a large boom box. Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times” was blasting through its eight speakers. That was the thing back then; the bigger the sound system, the better. Nowadays, the smaller the MP3 player, the better. That boom box truly was a sign of the times.

  Another guy glanced down at his Swatch impatiently as I brushed past them without a word. I could sense them staring at me and heard one of them whispering something, undoubtedly something ignorant about the scar running down the left side of my face, but I could not have cared less. I was more concerned with the excruciating pain between my thighs, the lacerations on my breasts, and the fact that, hours earlier, I had endured the greatest humiliation of my entire life.

  There were fewer than two dozen people scattered around the downtown Greyhound depot; half of them were asleep on benches. All of their worldly possessions were crammed in trash bags, grocery bags, or in stolen carts from local stores. Through my blurred vision, I could make out the ticket counter directly ahead of me. It took all the deliberation within me not to pass out.

  Halfway across the lobby, my knees felt like they were about to collapse. It was akin to being on stilts. Pulling my brown bomber jacket tighter around me, I didn’t want anyone to see my mutilated body. I tried to persuade myself that if I could make it to the counter, pu
rchase a ticket to anywhere with the $56.78 that I had in my purse, and get the hell away from Atlanta, everything would be okay. I had no clue how far $56.78 would get me or how I would get additional money once I arrived or even afford to eat, but none of that mattered. I had to leave . . . either leave or kill myself. Those were the only two practicable options.

  A kaleidoscope of thoughts, accompanied by vivid and horrific images, cascaded through my memory bank as I stood there, weakening by the second. Killing myself would have made the most sense, but I was too cowardly. I had made several attempts; always chickening out when it came down to it. Maybe I would die there on the spot from what they did to me. I would have welcomed such a blessing. I was not meant for this world. They should have made me the poster child for the term “fucked at birth.”

  People were staring. One woman with big hair, fluffed up so much that it looked like a second head, was clutching on to her purse on the bench like she anticipated me flying across the room like a vampire and snatching it. She shouldn’t have been traveling so late if she was petrified of strangers. Crazy people frequented bus stations at night. I was fifteen years old and even I understood that.

  Someone else entered the automatic doors behind me. I could tell it was a woman by the sound of her voice. Her perfume was impenetrable and intoxicating and flooded the entire area with her scent. She was speaking with someone, a man.

  “I can’t believe we have to take the bus back to New York! Why can’t we rent a car?” Her voice was indulgent, almost lyrical.

  “I don’t feel like driving in the middle of the night, Hannah,” the man replied. “If we leave on the three-fifteen, we’ll be there by dinnertime.”

  “Shawn, I am so not feeling you right now. So not feeling you.” She paused and sucked on her teeth. “You’re being a cheapskate, as usual. Let’s call a spade a spade.”

  Shawn sighed. “You just want to hear yourself yack. I’m paying for the bus tickets. It would probably be cheaper to rent a damn car.”

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