The Boy Next Door - Pt. VII: It Takes A Village
Who is Dr. Edward's sibling? What's the true Loganville history? Was Mona and Ray's death justified?
Based on true events
A Gold House - Logan, IL
“Essie, I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Mona and Ray got what they deserved,” Marlene says. Essie is taken back by the comment. She continues.
“I know that’s harsh to say, but what’s even worse is what they did to you. Essie… Mona and Ray kidnapped you from your real family. From your real community, from all of us.” Essie looks to Dr. Edwards for approval. She receives a look of disappointment and a soft nod from her– agreeing with Marlene’s statement. Marlene walks over and takes a seat next to Essie.
“Now it’s time for you to learn the true story of Loganville,” she says.
“Are you familiar with redlining?” Jack asks.
“I heard about it in class years ago. Isn’t that when they made black people live in underserved areas?” Essie asks.
“Something like that,” Jack says. He continues.
“It started in the 1930s and had a huge effect on black people. A lot of black families were denied mortgages, insurance and loans by lenders based on their race or ethnicity. This made it extremely hard for my father to raise our family of five. My family moved here from Natchez, Mississippi during the great migration in 1956. MY daddy came to Chicago with enough money to buy a home in a nice neighborhood, but was denied a mortgage. Our family was forced to live in urban housing projects in poor inner city neighborhoods. This meant that me and my siblings would have to grow up in the worst conditions and schools. I watched my father get denied year after year despite bringing more and more money to the table to negotiate. It ate him up inside… But… It gave me the motivation I needed to get out of that life forever. I worked hard and was able to graduate at the top of my class in 1972. After graduation, I started working in a rural town called Elkburg, about an hour from Chicago, where I grew up,” Jack says before pausing to grab Marlene’s hand. He continues.
“That’s where I met Marlene. Her father owned an agricultural business and needed help with the machines. They couldn’t make it through a whole winter, until I showed up. I saw a flyer at the bus station and decided to give him a call. I learned to call first because the first three times I showed up to the job site and they sent me home right away. The next four times, I called and told them my name, and they told me to come on down. Then, when I got there, he said, ‘Oh you a black Jack Edwards,’ and sent me home again. That pissed my daddy off because he gave me this name so they wouldn’t assume I was a black man and hopefully get more job opportunities. So I called and the conversation went just like this."
Jack fixed his hands as if he was holding two phones and held both hands up on each side of his head. He raised the phone in the left hand.
“This is her dad,” he said. Then he raised the phone in his right hand.
“This is me.” He tilts his head back and forth into the imaginary phones as he tells the story.
“My name is Jack Edwards and I am a black man,” he says with a still, wide-eyed face. He paused for a few seconds. Jack continues.
“Can you work?”
“Yes, I’m great with my hands and can build strong machines from scratch.”
“Come by today.”
Jack hangs up the imaginary phones and chuckles. Everyone watches as he soaks up the moment.
“He loves that story,” Dr. Edwards says as she shakes her head.
“That’s it?” Essie asks.
“Yup. I hopped on the next train and started working that same day. To no surprise, I was the only black man there, but he was a fair man so I moved up the ranks fast. That didn’t go over well with the town and other workers, but he didn’t care. Matters got even worse when Marlene returned from college. She started helping on the business side with her dad and told him we need to hire more black workers,”
“I didn’t tell him anything, the numbers did the talking,” Marlene intervenes.
"Well, we didn’t hire any because his clients threatened to stop doing business with him. They didn’t like the idea of black people taking a white man’s job. So we continued as is. A few months later her father started getting muscle cramps and had a hard time chewing or swallowing. We thought it was the alcohol so he stopped drinking. About a month after he stopped drinking, he started slurring his speech so we quickly called a doctor to come see him. The doctor said he may have early stages of ALS. We didn’t know much about it in the 70’s other than a baseball player had it. In less than a year he went from helping us build machines and negotiating for new business, to bed ridden and only getting around the house in a wheelchair. Business started dropping as quickly as his health did. The workers respected him, but not me– a black man, and Marlene, a woman. Workers would show up late, leave early, take twice as long to do the work and even threaten to tell the clients that her father was dying. We revisited the idea of hiring more black workers and decided it was the best solution to our problem. And it worked. The business was booming again. We were doing twice the work with less workers. But of course, word got out that her father was dying and clients started cutting ties. Business was really drying up so we came up with a plan,” Jack finishes.
“We found some land for sale way south of Chicago. Jack mentioned how hard it was for his father to get a loan and the same problem remained decades later for him. We didn’t want to take any chances so I gave my brother a call and he agreed to help us get the house. He met with the bank and got the loan the same day– I still can’t believe how easy it was for him. He just walked right in and because he fit the description, they practically handed him the keys. Not only did they ignore the fact that he signed my father’s name– Henry Ford Sr. instead of his, Henry Ford Jr., but they also didn’t even ask about the successor’s name–,” Marlene says before she is cut off by Jack.
“None other than me, Jack Edwards. I guess my father’s name picking finally came in handy.”
“We were able to move into a new community that needed our services more than they cared about skin color so we brought all the workers and their families with us. Our profits more than tripled year after year so we kept calling my brother and buying more property. Three new homes every year to be exact. We rented out the homes to the workers, and black families who couldn’t get loans through the bank. Before we knew it, we had built our own community. Once my father died in 82, all of the deeds turned over to Jack,” Marlene says. She stares into Jack’s eyes. He embraces the look, then places his hand over hers.
“We were living in a peaceful community for decades and business was thriving every year,” Jack says.
“Well we did have that one down year right before grandpa died,” Dr. Edwards chimes in.
“Oh that was nothing,” Marlene quickly responds.
“But isn’t that when we had the first ceremony?” Dr. Edwards asks. Jack jumps in.
“How would you know? You weren’t even born yet”
“I wasn’t but your–”
“Oh please don’t tell me your brother told you this, he was barely walking when it happened.” Jack rebuttals.
“Don’t mind her Essie, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Marlene says as she rolls her eyes. Dr. Edwards opens her mouth to respond, but sees the daring look on Marlene’s face.
“You know what, I think I’ll excuse myself.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Marlene says.
“Like we were saying… Everything was peaceful for decades. Then it all changed in the late 90s when the first generation of Loganville kids grew up. They had no idea of what we went through to create the life they benefited from everyday. They were skipping school, smoking, drinking and just being downright hoodlums! And Mona and Ray were the worst of them all. We warned their parents about their behavior and they agreed to send them far away to college so they can experience how hard life is on their own. We even paid for their tuition! And how did they repay us? By getting sent home. Ray was tall-for-nothing and thought he was a better basketball player than he actually was. He got cut from the team and came right back here to live with his parents. Mona was the real star, but she had a temper hotter than hell so she got cut. Her talent got her three more opportunities in California, Texas and Georgia, but she got the boot every time and ended up right back in Loganville!” Jack screams.
Marlene notices how worked up he’s getting and lightly taps his hand signaling him to calm down.
“I can take it from here Jack,” Marlene says.
“Whenever Mona would come home in between schools, she worked as a teacher’s aid in Melanie’s classroom. Melanie and Denzel were a young educated, responsible couple. It was people like them we dreamed of helping when we built this community. They moved here from California and were big Lakers fans, hence, why the house is gold and filled with vibrant colors.
“I love vibrant colors,” Nina said. Marlene continued.
“Well now you know why. Anyway, Mona and Melanie were around the same age and loved basketball so they naturally spent a lot of time together. Mona was around most of Melanie’s pregnancy with you. She would babysit your older brother and seemed to help out, but I still don’t know what Melanie saw in her. I warned her… I said: Mel, be careful… Mona is unpredictable and can snap at any moment… unfortunately, she didn’t listen to me. Mona continued to babysit you and got way too attached. And it got worse once you were born. One night, we caught Mona sleeping in the attic of the house after she was excused from her babysitting duties. When we confronted her about it, she said she wanted to stay close to you in case something bad happened overnight. She was losing it, I’m telling you! So… I stepped in and told Melanie that she needs to find a new babysitter. She finally listened and guess what happened the next day?… we found Melanie, Denzel, and Rob dead in this very house. And you, Mona and Ray went missing. We immediately went to the police and started a search for the three of you. We’ve worked all over the state so we were confident that we would reach a quick resolution, but the search went on for a week. Then a month. Then a year. We searched the entire midwest region– Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and Indiana, all to no avail. The case went cold and the police stopped looking, but we needed a resolution for the sake of the community. Nothing like this had ever happened so everyone was in shock. We were all thinking... what if they returned to kill again? What if they came back for more kids? We were all terrified and the morale in the community was at an all time low. Jack thought a way to help pick everyone’s spirits up was to honor the family by renaming Loganville to Logan. And it worked.” Jack nods proudly and begins to speak.
“I gave the mayor a call, explained my idea and he was onboard. We had a ceremony for the Logans, renamed the town after them, and vowed to not rent out the home until we brought you home– alive. So we went back to the drawing board to figure out where they might have taken you. We knew Mona lived in three other states for school so we started in California. Months went by, but we didn’t get anywhere. Then we looked into Georgia. That was a dead end. The last stop was Texas because she loved the San Antonio Spurs. But it was the same result. This went on for about 14 years before we got a breakthrough. I got a call from an old member of Loganville. He said he saw a couple that looked like Mona and Ray at a popular Spurs bar in San Antonio. I asked him to trail them when they left so we could get an address. He did and we finally got a glimpse of you, in the flesh after all these years.”
“We were so happy to see you and couldn’t believe how much you’ve grown!” Marlene expressed. She continues.
“It was such a delicate situation because we knew if Mona and Ray found out we were on to them, they would run off again. We decided to send Lisa to San Antonio. She applied for the job as a counselor at your high school and got it–”
“So it wasn’t a coincidence that I got into Loganville?” Essie asked.
“This was all by design sweetie. For your safety,” Marlene responds.
“Wow…I’m not sure how to feel about that,” Essie says under her breath.
“You should feel good! You did the work. Lisa didn’t show up to class and do your homework for you. You did that!” Marlene states.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just wonder if I should’ve… could’ve gotten into the other schools I applied to.”
“Essie, you were kidnapped. Gone for more than a decade. Now you’re right back in the house you were stolen from. I think you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,” Marlene says.
“Yeah, maybe I'm overthinking it.”
“It takes a village for something like this to happen and we all played our part.”
“What part did I play?” says a voice coming from behind Essie.
Marlene jumps up and runs toward the person. Essie, can’t make out the person, but the voice sounds familiar.
“Oh baby you finally made it!” Marlene says as she gives him a big hug. Jack gets up and walks in the opposite direction. Whoever the person is, he obviously is not excited by their presence.
“Lisa, your brother is here,” Jack groans. Dr. Edwards runs into the kitchen, nearly spilling her drink.
“Hey sis!” she says as she gives the person a loud hug. Essie can no longer wait to see who the person is so she turns to see. She can’t believe who it is.
“What are you doing here?!” Essie yells?