Magpie Moments: Caught Between the Moon and Pensacola (Flashed in a Florida Jail)

Time for another installment of Magpie Moments, posts about shiny bits I snatched from real life and twisted into a fictionalized shape in my Sydney Brennan mysteries! Today, we’ll continue with one from my latest novel, The Perils of Panacea.

I’m omitting some of the plot stuff in this selection, but here’s the context: my PI Sydney Brennan and attorney Richard Frey have just finished visiting an inmate in a Florida jail in connection with a case (or two) they’re working. They’re waiting in an area in view of the inmates. Richard is not in his happy place (gotta read the book to find out why), so he’s giving Sydney the cold shoulder.

We stood outside the control center, waiting for someone to escort us back through all the gates . . . I heard a few catcalls and a few assessments of various physical attributes, but I let them go in one ear and out the other . . . An officer finally emerged from the chamber when he and the other three men inside felt we’d waited long enough. I’d actually forgotten Richard was next to me until we bumped each other making room for the uniformed officer. Exiting brought us closer to the detention area, and one man’s voice called out above the rest.

“Hello, baby! What you think?”

I turned in time to see an inmate dropping his pants to show his ass.

“Richard, I think someone’s talking to you,” I said.

He didn’t even smile.

Chapter 38, The Perils of Panacea

This actually happened to me when I was a second chair attorney on a death penalty case.

Well, at least the flashing part did. I’m pretty sure it was in a Florida Panhandle jail, but I wouldn’t swear to it. And I think I know which case I was working on at the time. (If I know the jail I know the case, and vice versa, so it’s a sort of self-perpetuating almost-knowledge.) The layout I describe in the book (omitted here) is loosely based on the actual layout of the jail, and the emotions Sydney experiences (also omitted here) are based on memories of my own emotions at the time.

A bunch of guys were jockeying for my attention while I waited, just as Sydney and Richard are in the book. This wasn’t because of my striking resemblance to a 5 foot 3-ish inch supermodel, but because I was young and female and new and they were mostly young and all male and totally bored out of their minds.

I wasn’t scared of the inmates, but I wasn’t stupid either, which meant being neither rude nor overly friendly to anyone. Taken within that context, what is the appropriate response to a strange man showing you his ass? (Literally, not in the Southern he’s-acting-like-a-jerk vernacular.)

This guy did get my attention. Because I wasn’t living in a novel, I kept my mouth shut while one of the guards gave a quick admonishment, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t keep a straight face.

I may be fuzzy on some of the other details, but to this day—over ten years later—I think could do a pretty good likeness of my mooner with a sketch artist. His face, people—Jeez! Minds out of the gutters. Could I pick him out of a line-up? Let’s say yes, with the caveat that eyewitness identifications are notoriously unreliable. 😉