Officer Johnson, a young black policewoman, sat between the two girls in the back seat of the cruiser. Her forty-something white male partner started the engine and drove out of the police station parking lot.
Conroe peered over the top of the front seat to check the time on the dashboard. It was 9:45 p.m. They had been at the police station for three hours. “Where are you taking us—jail?”
Officer Johnson answered, “Nope. You lucked out. The store manager agreed to drop the misdemeanor charges if we admitted you to Philanopian Children’s Home.”
“A children’s home?” Conroe asked. “I don’t belong in a children’s home.”
“Sure you do,” said the other girl, “because you’re a kid punk.”
“You’re going there too,” reminded the male cop.
“I’m a grown woman,” said the girl.
“You’re both seventeen,” replied Officer Johnson, “and neither of you have got any living relatives—at least none that we could locate—so you’re both going to Philly.”
“Philly?” the girl asked.
“That’s what everybody calls it. It’s a good place. They help a lot of kids. So, when you get there, try to be civil. Otherwise, you may get shipped off to juvie.” She looked at one girl and then the other, studying them in the beam of headlights from oncoming cars. “I don’t know if you two have been formally introduced, so let me do the honors. Conroe Williamson, meet Tonya Meloni.”
Both girls stared straight ahead.
“Shake hands.” The female cop took each of their right hands and touched them together. “I said, shake hands.”
Conroe took Tonya’s hand.
Tonya squeezed it hard.
Conroe squeezed back.
It turned into a death match—each one trying to out-squeeze the other.
Officer Johnson popped them in the foreheads with the back of her hands. “Cool it.”
They let go.
Tonya said, “Conroe? What kind of a name is that? Your parents named you after a city? If they were gonna do that, they should have gone big and named you Houston.” She laughed.
“I think going big would have been more appropriate for your parents.”
Tonya lurched at Conroe, but Officer Johnson elbowed her in the ribs, and she retreated.
“Actually, I was named after my mother. She’s the one who was named after the city.”
“Well, I’m just glad to know the name of the person I plan to kill.”
Officer Johnson said, “Now, Tonya, let’s try to have a positive attitude. No more talk about killing anybody. I know you didn’t really mean that anyway.”
“We’ll see,” Tonya replied, eying Conroe.