They say that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. What about a magazine? Generally a magazine’s cover will tell all you need to know about it’s content, particularly when said magazine bears a name like “Shaved Pink” or “Bigguns”. And that’s exactly what Anthony James Scagnatelli reminded her of – a porno magazine. He looked every bit the part of the kiddy raper he had been convicted of being. His file listed his age at 43 while his face suggested something closer to 55. Of course the time spent in prison, and more recently solitary confinement, had no doubt played a big role in his drastic aging. Still, he had one of those faces that always looked older than it was. The eyes were narrow and distant and just a hair too close together. The right pupil seemed a touch larger than the left, giving him a look that suggested one of two things – inbreeding or dementia. His nose was short and wide, being pulled up slightly at the tip and looking somewhat snout-like. The chapped lips and crooked, yellow teeth seemed perfectly in tune with the rest of his gnarled visage. Hair? A total rat’s nest. Skin? Pockmarked and oily. Needledick was the poster child for sick fucks everywhere.
The rest of his appearance was no better. Short, about 5-foot-8, with a terribly hunched over posture and oversized hands that dangled at his sides like an orangutan. The scrawny arms that poked out from the short sleeves of his orange jumpsuit were covered in hair and scabs. And all over his body his skin clung to his skeleton like shrink wrap. From the file photos alone it was easy to see that A.J. Scags had lost quite a bit of weight in prison. It was a sickly kind of weight loss to boot. “If me or one of the other hits doesn’t get him soon”, Sondra thought to herself, “God will.”
He had been escorted into the room by a pair of guards about fifteen minutes earlier. They gave her what appeared to be the standard speech about dealing with prisoners and what to do if her visitor got testy. They had their routine down pat, and it was easy to tell these two had been working together at this particular gig for awhile. The young guy who had escorted her up from the main entrance earlier had mentioned the fact that solitary duty was considered a privilege within the guard community, so she felt safe that these two were on the up-in-up in terms of their legitimacy. Unfortunately, she couldn’t say the same for studboy himself. He had babbled incessantly on the trip up and seemed overly eager to talk about his job. In fact, his enthusiasm screamed “new guy” to her initially, something which had caused buzzers to go off in her mind almost instantly. No doubt her fellow mercs would be looking for all sorts of methods to infiltrate the prison community and getting hired on as a guard seemed a logical step. After a few minutes of listening to his excited yapping she was all set to classify him as most definitely *not* a plant, as he was making his newness too obvious, and basically had all the discipline of a stray dog. But she held off judgement. In addition to his general behavior, there was something about him that suggested “I don’t belong here”. Not that she could put her finger on it.
So with the instructions dispensed and the guards removed from the small 8×8 room, she had commenced her interview with the man she had hoped to soon kill. Anthony James Scagnatelli. A.J. Scags. Needledick. By any name he was still the same; a stuttering, twitchy man with a hyperactive laugh and a penchant for using the words “pebbles” and “skim”. According to the report of Dr. Nicholas Van Husen, one of the psychologists originally assigned to his trial, he liked to refer to his actions with the children on his bus as “skimming some pebbles”. It was, he said, “a way ta get my rocks off”. It was one of a number of things that added to the vile portrait the investigation had painted of him. Now, here in person, Sondra Nobles was learning that the portrait might as well have been a Polaroid. It was that accurate.
Dr. Van Husen’s report, along with those of the two other psychologists assigned to the case, proved invaluable to Sondra during her flight to Denver the morning before. She had cribbed most of the juicy questions for her own checklist, figuring if they were good enough for studied professionals, they’d be more than enough to help her pass herself off as one of their kind. Plus, she was kind of intrigued to see if she’d get the same whacked answers from Scags himself as the reports had indicated. Some of it was just too wild to believe.
Q: “Did you limit your experimentation with the victims to merely oral sex, or were there other acts?”
A: “Dere’s more den one way to skin a cat, n’ more den one way to skim a pebble, baby.”
Q: “Was there ever penetration?”
A: “Da worm got da apple, baby. And he rotted it from da inside out.”
Q: “Did you ever ejaculate on the victims?”
A:” On. In. When I cums, I cums.”
Q: “Did you ever bring the victims to orgasm?”
A: “I brought ’em ta heaven, I did. You know, baby, whoeva’ said ya can’t get blood from a stone ain’t never squeezed no pebble.”
There were more, but the idea was certainly clear. A.J. Scags was a disturbed man. And what’s more, he wasn’t particularly ashamed of his actions. The case itself had received a considerable amount of national attention when it initially broke some 13 months earlier. Parents across the nation were up in arms about the fact that a man with documented pedophile tendencies was given a job as a bus driver to begin with and the charter company ended up losing it’s contract with the school system as a result of the incident and was out of business within three months. It hit that hard.
Scagnatelli’s admission of guilt also caused quite an uproar, along with his matter-of-fact retelling of his ways and means. Sondra recalled briefly hearing of the case, but as she had been engaged in a long-term assignment in Tokyo at the time, she’d never really learned much. Now she was learning *too* much. The psychological profiles read like a bad novel. Scagnatelli himself came across like a caricature. She found it almost impossible to believe that he said the things he had said. But there they were in print, in all three profiles. And here he was in person, repeating the same things for her own ears. It was all she could do not stick the slimy fucker right then and there.
She worked her way through the pages of prepared questions, deviating only on brief occasions when his answers either differed from those she had read in the prior reports or when he simply offered up something she felt needed further exploring. One of the side effects of years studying potential marks as a set-up to the job was that she had become fascinated by the human condition. She had run into a number of truly warped people over the years, and had stories within stories about what she’d seen and read along the way. Anthony James Scagnatelli was certainly among the most bizarre. Through all his sick rambling and uneasy laughter, she had to admit she found the man fascinating. Not in a “let’s do lunch” kind of way, but in that “rubbernecking a car wreck” way. It took quite a bit to shock someone in her line of work, but he was doing a damn good job so far.
“A rock’s a rock, but a pebble’s a gem.”
There seemed to be a gleam in his eye as he offered up another nugget of wisdom from the Book of Scags. Sondra fixed him with a stern look and could even sense herself visibly tensing. She knew there was only so much she’d be able to listen to before she cracked. So far it had been her that appeared close to losing it all and lashing out, rather than Scagnatelli as she had planned. If she was going to get what she needed for phase 2, she would need to do it soon or risk losing her own sanity in the process. As luck would have it, it was at that moment she noticed a slight change in his demeanor.
“Excuse me? *What* was that?” Sondra’s voice raised a few decibels and she leaned in towards Scagnatelli. He had remained seated across the table from her throughout the interview and she had made it a point to keep some distance. Now she began closing the gap; bridging the distance slightly and putting herself within reach. It was a bit of a gamble, but it was having an interesting effect. A.J. Scags was sinking back into his chair.
“I don’t believe I asked you a question, Mr. Scagnatelli.”
He flinched. The demented smile that had remained perched on his lips as he bathed in his tales of perversion slowly gave way to something resembling a frown. Suddenly there was fear in his eyes. He did not answer. Sondra sensed her moment and pressed on.
“*I* am the one conducting this interview, Mr. Scagnatelli. *I* will ask the questions. And *you* will only speak when spoken to. We are not doing this for your enjoyment.”
By now it was clear; A.J. Scags was afraid of her. Why, she wasn’t exactly sure, but it was pretty obvious it had something to do with her suddenly becoming assertive. Her mind raced as she mulled the possibilities over.
He prayed on children. Submissives. His file revealed an employment history that suggested he was a model employee, at least according to his bosses, but one who wouldn’t keep a job for any long period of time. She pushed her mind ahead, forcing herself to rifle through all she could recall from the file. He had been in the R.O.T.C. program in high school, but dropped out after a few weeks citing a dislike for his instructors despite a lack of any specific instances to point to. He owned a vast library of print and video pornography, but had claimed to dislike going to strip clubs and peep shows. All these seemingly random points were suddenly coming into joint focus. Whenever Anthony Scagnatelli was put into a position where someone else was the aggressor, he became uncomfortable. Fearful.
Realization washed over her like a waterfall and it took a concerted effort to keep from revealing her sudden jubilation. Instead she just continued to fix him with a cold stare while she attempted to determine how this discovery could be useful. She needed him to go the other way. She needed him to *attack* her, not cower from her. And she needed to be able to get him to do it again – on command – with a guard in the room.
The name shot through her thoughts like a torpedo.
Breaking off her stare, Sondra wheeled around and scooped the manila folder off the table. Quickly she rifled through it’s contents, flipping through the pages in a search for the answer. Finally, she found it.
Augustus Pendleton was one of Anthony Scagnatelli’s victims, an 8 year-old boy from Boulder who was known as Augie to his family and friends. The reason his name was suddenly significant was the fact that among all the reported cases of molestation attributed to A.J. Scags, only Augie Pendleton reported being abused in a way other than sexually. It seems that young Augie had attempted, like many of the children, to refute Scags’ advances, first by simply saying “no”, and second by trying to squirm free when Scags got aggressive. But unlike the others, Augie went one step further. As Scags attempted to force his dominance, Augie Pendleton began to command his attacker to stop rather than plead. Like a child suddenly standing up to the neighborhood dog that had knocked it over so many times before, Augie had instinctively decided to assert himself. He says he demanded to be left alone and even went so far as to shove Scagnatelli.
“Do as I say and leave me alone.”
This was the phrase which little Augie Pendelton claims sent Anthony Scagnatelli into a fit of rage that resulted in him striking the boy with the back of his hand and eventually forcing himself on the youngster, threatening to inflict further harm if the child told anyone about what had happened. In all other cases the children who had been molested by A.J. Scags had claimed he was not violent with them. Only Augie Pendleton with his commanding “do as I say and leave me alone” had endured such a wrath.
“It’s worth a shot”, Sondra thought to herself. She plopped the folder back on the table and once again leaned into Anthony Scagnatelli. By now he had regained some of his confidence, but the mere act of her leaning caused him to tense.
“Anthony”, she said, “does it make you nervous when I do this?”
He managed to mumble an unconvincing “no” while staring off towards the right-hand wall, almost as if seeking refuge.
“Do you *like* it when I tell you what to do?”
His eyes darted from the wall back to her gaze.
“Nobody tells me what ta do, baby.” Contact. The fear she had previously seen was now becoming agitation.
“Oh, really? I disagree. Augie Pendleton disagrees too.”
Scagnatelli seethed. His entire upper-body lurched forward in the chair as if wanting to strike out, but surprisingly he remained seated. Anger and rage were building within him, but so far A.J. Scags wasn’t biting completely.
“Fuck that shitbag.”
“He told you what to do, didn’t he, Anthony?”
This time his nostrils flared. A slow hiss emitted from his lips before he responded with “Fuck you, bitch. Nobody tells me what to do.” He rose steadily from his chair. “NOBODY!”
Sondra answered him calmly. “Sit down, Anthony.”
“Fuck you”, spewed his response.
“Do as I say and SIT DOWN!”
In a flash he leapt up from his seat, his hands instantly lurching for her throat as she had left herself hanging open over the table. A horrific howl emerged from his mouth as he began to shake her violently and within seconds the door to the room was being flung open and the two guards who had brought him into the room earlier converged on him like sack-thirsty linebackers. They slammed his face down into the table and within moments he was cuffed. All the while Anthony Scagnatelli screamed and grunted, his eyes burning into Sondra with a vacant sort of hatred she had never seen before. Standing back and collecting herself, it was all she could do not to smile.
* * * * * * * * *
Needledick Scagnatelli was escorted back to his solitary cell and Sondra took added pleasure in realizing that only did she get what she wanted, she had managed to ensure his next few nights in solitary would be even more unpleasant than normal. Frank Mundy would see to that personally he had said as Scags was dragged away. She did her best to act frightened and ruffled despite the fact that she was never really in danger. Sondra Nobles could handle herself quite fine, thank you very much. Dr. Janice Whiting, on the other hand, could not, so Sondra played the role of shaken female to perfection. Mundy apologized up and down although he seemed to do it with the words “stupid woman” underwritten into every apology. That was probably why his eyes nearly fell out of his sockets when she announced her intention to interview Scagnatelli a second time, albeit at a later date. He had tried to protest, and had a decent case given the events that had just occurred. But Sondra/Janice didn’t back down and by the time it was all said and done, she had an appointment for the following Monday.
Of course, Monday was a good four days away, a fact that irritated Sondra to no end. The plan was to get the return visit scheduled for the next day, Friday, but Mundy was insistent that Scags wouldn’t be going anywhere for the next few days, not the least of which was to another interview. Eventually Sondra caved in and accepted the Monday slot.
Monday. Four days. In four days Anthony Scagnatelli might already be dead. It was a risk she was going to have to take, but one she was not going to be happy about. Another guard escorted her to the door and she began the process of checking out. It was then that she saw Mundy out of the corner of her eye. He was huddled in conversation with another guard, constantly looking in her direction and pointing. The other guard seemed highly interested in what Mundy had to say and kept staring at her. Eventually she returned his gaze and after a tense ten seconds or so of locked vision, he looked away.
“What’s that guard’s name?” she asked as her bag was handed back to her.
“That’s Ricky O’Hare.”
Sondra scowled. “Does he always stare at people like that?”
“I dunno. Mebbe he likes ya.” The guard laughed at his own joke.
“Is he new here?”
“Ricky? Naaah. He’s been here for eons.”
Another scowl. Something about O’Hare didn’t sit right with her. She muffled a “thanks” to the guy at the desk as she scribbled her fake signature on the sign-out sheet and was ushered through the gate towards the main lobby. First the hyper young guy, now this. As Sondra Nobles walked across the parking lot back to her rental car, she couldn’t shake the feeling that all her hard work was in danger of becoming all for naught. It was a feeling she was not used to.