Hannah wrapped her arms a little tighter around her charcoal gray blazer. She walked briskly from the ground level front door of her condo to the nearby elevator. The garage where she kept her nearly new Corvette was situated under ground. The security in her high-rent complex was very efficient, as well as discreet. The sports-car engine was already warming as Hannah disarmed the alarm. She opened the door and slid into the waiting luxury of the wine-colored soft leather bucket seats. The ‘Vette was the second best present she ever gave to herself. The top of the list she used as the finishing touch to her every day display of understated elegance. The eighteen karat gold-encased emerald pin Hannah wore on the lapels of her blazers. It held great significance for her. It served to remind her, daily, of where she came from and where she wanted to arrive.

That’s not Oklahoma City, living hand to mouth, thought Hannah. You can just forget all about that. Hannah Bergh put the ‘Bully-Boy’ into gear. She backed out of her space, drove up the ramp, leaving the confines of the garage for the nearby expanse of SR 51. The parkway was already filling with commuters, migrating to their downtown office buildings. Hannah merged quickly into the center lane. She settled in for a pleasant drive to her office in the sprawling complex of St. Anthony Medical Center.
Hannah’s employer, Hudson-Smythe Pharmaceuticals, sponsored a research center in the basement of the central Phoenix hospital. Hannah coordinated the research for the project. She and Dr. Jon Pender, the facility’s talented (although troubled) researcher, were responsible for the development of ViraStat. This viral-static agent was wildly successful. Hannah Bergh was making darn sure she’s receiving the lion’s share of the credit.
ViraStat can and will, if used by the patient on a daily basis, prohibit the deadly effects of Transmittable Carcinoma Syndrome (TCS). This daily drug can keep the victims of TCS alive and with excellent quality of life. ViraStat was growing more and more popular and important every day.
TCS had spread like a prairie wild fire ever since first being discovered. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was almost overwhelmed by the speed at which the virulent disease had spread. Fortunately, Hudson-Smythe had developed a weapon to add to its arsenal to combat TCS. ViraStat was delivered to the public at large and implemented to great fanfare. The drug was primed to make some folks very rich.
By far the scariest part of TCS was that it proliferated without any traditional boundaries. The latest information obtained from the CDC has shown that the virus is more than happy to lay waste to the immune systems of everyone exposed. Sports heroes, entertainers, members of the clergy, politicians fell just as fast to TCS as the homeless populations. With TCS expanding at such incredible proportions, the need for Pender and Hannah’s creation has increased exponentially since inception.
Hannah Bergh, the poor girl from the Sooner State, was the finally grabbing hold of the brass ring. And she knew, no matter what the cost, she could never let it go.
Hannah signaled and cautiously veered the ‘Vette into the right hand lane. She approached her exit, and as she looked into the rear-view mirror, she caught another quick glimpse of the gold and emerald lapel pin. And like it so often did, it made her remember home.


Hannah Bergh was a girl of no more than twelve. She was walking home from school early on that day because of a false fire alarm. The poor girl from one of Oklahoma City’s tougher housing projects walked passed the window of Jantley’s Fine Jewelry store. She was on her way home. As she passed the exquisite piece of jewelry, Hannah thought that it was the finest ever made. She recalled the first time she saw the pin:

Her mother was walking with Hannah when she suddenly stopped. They were standing in front of Jantley’s display window.
“What are we stopping for, Momma?” Hannah had asked her.
“I wanted you to see something truly wonderful,” she told her.
“What’s that?”
“This pin,” Hannah’s mother replied. She placed her arm around her daughter’s skinny shoulders, “The one in the center, sittin’ on the black velvet cushion.”
“The green one,” said Hannah.
“Yeah, doll-baby,” she told her, “The emerald and gold one.”
“It’s sure is pretty,” Hannah said. She moved a bit nearer to the big glass window.
“No, Hannah,” her mother corrected with a noisy exhale. Hannah, too, had inched closer. “You see, honey, this here pin is more than just beautiful,” she continued, “It is perfect.”
“Then why don’t you try to get Terry to buy it for you, Momma?” Hannah offered. It made her mother laugh vehemently.
“That bastard step-father of yours could never lay his hands on that kind of money,” she explained, “Even if he did, he’d never spend any of it on something nice for me.”
Hannah nodded her understanding. She knew perfectly well what her mother had meant. Terry was an idiot at best. He was also a bully and drug-addict every other minute of the day. He would never do anything nice for Hannah’s mother. Most of the money Terry did manage to procure would go right into a needle and up his arm.
Young Hannah knew her real father would have bought the pin for her momma. But he’d got himself very dead in Viet Nam. Hannah’s father couldn’t help anyone.
“Why do you say the pin is perfect, Momma?”
“Because honey, when a lady has a pin this nice, nothing bad can happen to her,” she explained.
“Why’s that?” young Hannah wanted to know.
“Simple,” she said. Hannah’s mother knelt in front of her. She peered directly into her daughter’s eyes. She continued: “You have got to be rich to wear a pin like that. And when you are rich, Hannah; very, very rich, then there ain’t no one that can hurt you. Remember what I said.”
Hannah stared at her mother, trying to understand what she meant. She knew in her young heart and mind that it was of the utmost importance. Hannah’s mother rarely spoke to her daughter in that serious, helpful tone. It was extraordinary that the bedraggled worn-out woman gave her daughter any advice at all. She told Hannah this while instinctively touching lightly her latest set of Terry-induced bruises.
Ever since that day, Hannah always tried to stop and look at the pin. The small piece of jewelry seemed to hold such critical importance to her mother.

After Hannah finished admiring that perfect lapel pin for the gazillionth time, she crossed a couple of streets. She went through the huge vacant weed-choked lot that bordered her housing project. Her family’s apartment was on the third floor, situated in the center of a long hallway. Hannah approached her home cautiously, as always. She went on tip-toes to the door. With her ear touching the door, she listened intently. If there were any loud noises coming from inside, Hanna would take off to the park and wait it out. That’s what her mother had instructed her to do.
Hannah didn’t really expect to hear any ruckus coming from the other side of the apartment door. She was a couple hours earlier than usual. On most days, this was the time that Terry went out to get his medicine.
Hannah pressed her ear tight to the door. It surprised her because the door opened with the slight pressure. She stifled an impulse to call out for her mother. When she was sure that there was no shouting, or glass breaking, Hannah went quietly inside. She shut the door with a much practiced near silence.
Hannah’s mother had always coached her to be as quiet as a mouse. She had to be absolutely positive Terry was either gone, or passed out from his daily dose. The last thing mother wanted to happen was Terry turning his abuse toward Hannah. At least, that was what she always claimed.
“Hurry up,” Hannah heard her mother say from the back bedroom.
“Shut up, you bitch,” she heard a strange voice reply. The words were followed by a vicious sounding slap.
“Quiet,” said Terry, “The both of you. I can’t concentrate.”
Damn, Hannah thought, I should go. Momma said I should leave when I heard them fighting. Hannah still had her hand on the door knob, eavesdropping. She heard no more grown-up talk. But there’s a stranger here.
“I still can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” the stranger said.
Hannah released the door knob. She began stealing quietly toward the back room.
“Aw, c’mon, man,” Terry replied, “It can’t be all that bad.”
Hannah slid hushed passed their only bathroom. She was half the way to the bedroom where the voices came from.
“How would you know, you damn little piss-ant junkie-fuck!” roared the stranger.
Hannah froze. She might know who this is. The stranger might be Terry’s guy.
What is he doing here? He never comes over, he hates Terry. Oh, no. Please don’t let Terry say anything stupid.
“Hey, don’t get mad, man,” Terry replied fast as a scared toad hops, “I was just dickin’ with ya.”
How can a grown man be this dumb?
“Did you just this second grow some balls, Terry?”
“I didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” claimed Terry.
Hannah ventured forward.
“Watch your mouth or I’ll cut you off, punk,” Terry’s guy threatened him, “Swear to Christ I will.”
Told you.
“Oh, God,” cried a truly frightened Terry, “Don’t do it, man. Please! You can have anything I got!”
Hannah switched her skulking to the other side of the hall, where her room was at. She really didn’t want to know what was going on in her parents’ bedroom.
“It looks like I’m already takin’ the only thing you gots left.”
“Okay, okay,” Terry said, “Don’t you think I know that? It’s all I got an’ you can have it any time.”
Where’s Momma?
“Any time, Terry? Really?” the guy asked sarcastically.
“Yeah, man,” Terry slowly replied. He sniffed and moaned low, with pleasure.
The springs on the bed creaked as Hannah neared the end of the hallway. Her room was just up ahead and to the left of her.
The corner of the back bedroom’s door jamb came into view. Hannah saw the bed. Terry was easing himself back onto the stained pillows.
“Any time, medicine man,” repeated Terry, “Any fucking time, baby.”
Hannah moved laterally and into the confines of her bedroom. As she did this, unfortunately, the rest of her mother and Terry’s room came into full view.
“I hope you don’t expect me to do this ugly hag every time you need a fix, Terry,” the medicine man told him.
Hannah saw him pulling hard on her mother’s hair. He was raping her from the rear.
“No, man,” Terry mumbled. He was drooling on himself and didn’t seem to notice, or care. “I can get you somethin’ better.”
No. Hannah’s hands went to her mouth. No. She backed into her room and crouched there. No.
“That I doubt very much, Terry.”
“Oh, yeah, baby,” Terry promised in an almost inaudible mutter. Then he turned his head and let go of some brownish-green bile. It spilled from his lips and onto the mattress.
I’m not going to let him.
“What’re you talkin’ about?” the medicine man asked. He stopped momentarily, adjusted himself. He resumed his rape with an even greater ferocity. Hannah’s mother cried out in pain. Her cries were answered with a punch to the base of the skull. Continuing, he stated: “This jacked-up bitch is all you gots.”
No way. That fucker wouldn’t dare! Would he?
Hannah peaked through her splayed fingers. She tried desperately to keep her mounting terror in check. Because even at only twelve years of age, Hannah knew how that bastard Terry would respond.
Terry wiped his stained face and managed a weak grin. “How do ya like your girls? On the young side, am I right, my brother?”
“I ain’t your brother, junkie-fuck,” the medicine man scolded. Hannah could see his hips rotating in exaggerated circles. It would have been much more comical if her mother wasn’t on the receiving end.
I’m not going to let him touch me.
“You’ll be my brother when you see her,” Terry replied with a chuckle, “The girl is only twelve and as sweet as honey.”
“How do you know, you ever turn her out?”
“Nope, the wife and I were saving her for you, my man.”
Terry you dirty little lying piece of shit.
Hannah cringed. She expected her mother to have a fit upon hearing Terry’s narcotic repayment program. But Hannah’s mother didn’t say a word to either of them.
“Untouched, huh,” the medicine man said, “She better be. For your sake, Terry, she’d better be tight as fuck.” His whole body contorted then. As he ejaculated he shouted: “Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!”
Terry fell into his usual after-medicine slumber. Hanna’s mother, who was trained to be passive during violence, finally noticed her young daughter’s witness. The pain and humiliation Hannah saw in her mother’s eyes nearly broke her heart.
Momma ain’t gonna say shit. Not even for me.
It nearly broke it, but not quite. Because Hannah’s mother squeezed her tired eyes shut to block Hannah from her sight. The tears fell as she lowered her head. Hannah’s mother let the medicine man finish by wiping his dick clean with her lank hair.
She’s not really gonna let them rape me, is she?
She didn’t utter a single word. Even after she saw her daughter staring in shock at the violence, Hannah’s mother didn’t say shit.
Hannah slid even further back into her room. She soundlessly entered her clothes closet. Once there, she hid only to protect herself. This was now Hannah’s primary concern and her full-time job. She must keep herself hidden and safe.
Hannah did this, while her mother did the very same thing.
Remember what I said.