Mellissa tapped her pen rapidly against the table. Her jaw hurt and one of her molars was loose due to a violent collision with a flying shoe. Her hair was singed and her fingers and palms scraped raw.
She honestly wasn’t sure if she felt traumatized, shell shocked or exhilarated; elated with stunned success. Perhaps it was all of them - a quick-change kaleidoscope of emotion. She’d had a startling insight into why people put their lives on the line to make a difference to the world. Why women like Lois Lane were willing to risk everything for the chance to showcase the injustices happening away from the public eye.
Mellissa figured it was a bit late to change her PHD, but not her career; investigative journalist had a nice ring to it…. if she ever got up the courage to leave the house again.
The tapping of her pen intensified.
She had to document everything that had happened in the last few weeks, everything she had seen and discovered.
Well, perhaps not everything. She looked at the white card with a number printed on it. She had tried using White Pages to find out the true identity of the young woman who had given it to her, but it didn’t appear to exist.
“If you need anything, if you’re ever in trouble – or you ever dig up something like this again – call. Ask for Sophie.”
Melissa strongly suspected ‘Sophie’ was an alias, but for whom she wasn’t sure.
She flicked on her Dictaphone; better try to order her thoughts while they were still fresh:
My name is Melissa Kim. I have spent the last six months collecting data from prisons across the east coast of the United States, interviewing inmates and reading though records. My brief was to assess the psychological impact on young men in the prison system, both first time offenders and those who have a history of incarceration.
One of the individuals I interviewed over the course of a month was in and out of Gotham County as regular as clockwork. Henry Martinez was a career criminal with a record that went back to his pre-teen years. He proved to be a good subject, as he was affable and eager to talk about his experiences in the system and the events in his life that may have led to the poor choices made in his youth.
The Gotham prison system is notoriously volatile and, due to an incident involving an explosion at the main jail, the inmates had to be moved to other facilities in the surrounding area. The overcrowding meant the overflow went as far as Bludhaven.
Mellissa stopped and took a few calming breaths. She had known things might take a bad turn, she had known she was going into a dangerous place – Bludhaven had a reputation even worse than Gotham, and its prisons reflected that. But she had not realized the full extent of it. How could she?
Her hand was shaking as she started recording again:
Martinez was one of the unlucky ones who were sent to Haven South, one of the smaller, older State prisons serving the Haven area, including Bludhaven itself. I felt it would be beneficial to continue to speak with Martinez in his new environment.
After a few frustrating weeks of trying to gain access, I discovered Martinez had been killed during his first week. Shocked, I contacted his only living relative, his sister, Theresa. She told me that her request for an autopsy had been denied and her brother’s body had already been cremated. This went against all regulations and at Ms. Martinez request I decided to dig deeper. What I found was a staggering amount of unexplained deaths within that one facility, and a complete lack of any sort of inquest. The prison board didn’t care, the police didn’t care – and any family members of the victims were voices nobody cared to listen to.
I spoke to my dean, and he agreed to use his and the college’s influence to help me gain access. It turned out I was not alone in noticing something was amiss in South Haven, but none of the players in the drama about to unfold could have guessed just how explosive our investigations would get….