Read an Excerpt
HE’S GOING TO KILL YOU
I was lying in a pool of blood on the cold marble floor of my New York City kitchen on April 21, 1993. My heart was beating so hard it felt as if it were about to bounce out of my chest. Every inch of my body was in excruciating pain. I started thinking to myself, This is it. I’m dying. What was my purpose here? I then heard my manager/husband Jack Gordon somewhere above me, talking on the telephone.
“I’ve killed her,” Gordon said. “I think she’s dead. I’ve killed her.”
As I listened to his panicked words, I recalled a conversation in which my brother Michael had warned me about Gordon a few years prior.
“You have to get away from him or he’s going to kill you,” Michael had said.
Not wanting to worry Michael any more than he already was, I didn’t say anything to him about how right he was to be afraid, both for me and for him. Michael knew that Gordon was dangerous, from his then manager Frank DiLeo, and he understood he was taking a great risk to warn me about Gordon. While we talked, Michael interrupted our conversation several times to ask me if Gordon was listening in on another extension. Although I assured him that Gordon was not eavesdropping because he was out of the house, Michael was still frightened. So I didn’t tell Michael that Gordon had threatened to harm him on numerous occasions if I disobeyed the orders Gordon gave me or revealed my abuse at his hands to the world. Instead, I assured Michael, and vowed to myself, that whatever Gordon might do to me, I would never allow him to hurt a member of my family. Michael was relieved. But while my thoughts and voice were forceful, my conviction was meaningless in the face of Gordon’s power, and the harm I knew he could easily inflict on those I loved through his mob ties. The truth, as I knew it, was that something horrible was destined to happen if I didn’t follow his every order and work my hardest to earn him money. I know now that, in his mind, he thought he was my pimp, and I was his prostitute. To ensure my family’s safety, I did everything Gordon ordered me to do, even sitting in a closet all day without moving sometimes. That’s how powerful his control was over me.
I became a pro at anticipating what might set Gordon off. But I wasn’t able to avoid being nearly beaten to death that night in my penthouse. He often invented excuses to punish me, but on this occasion, he didn’t give me any reason or warning. When he came home earlier that evening, I was frightened by his behavior, which was strange. I retreated into the bathroom, and when I came out, Gordon was waiting for me with a look of pure evil on his face. Surely, I was looking the devil straight in the eye. I was terrified.
Although my body trembled and my knees buckled, I ran out of the room and down the hallway to the kitchen. I could feel the blood rapidly pounding, and creating pressure, in my ears. I felt as if I were moving in slow motion, even though I was hurrying away from him as fast as I could. I knew there was no escape, nowhere to hide, and no one to come to my rescue. Gordon hired all of our help from among his Mafia connections. They were paid from money I earned, which he controlled 100 percent and spent to help control and intimidate me.
I was certain this would be the end of my life. I could easily imagine the lies Gordon would tell the world to cover up my murder. The headlines that would probably have read LA TOYA JACKSON JUMPS TO HER DEATH FROM THE BALCONY OF HER NYC CONDO. Or Gordon would bring in a shady doctor to shoot me full of drugs and claim I overdosed. I had no doubt that he knew enough evildoers to help him avoid responsibility. I wondered if my family would investigate, or if they would believe what they were told and never know the truth.
As I was cornered in the kitchen, Gordon came up close behind me. I was so afraid that I could hardly breathe, but I knew better than to beg for mercy.
Without saying anything, he punched me in the face. At 110 pounds, I was no match for him and fell to the floor. I curled into a ball to try to avoid his blows, but they came at me from every direction. He kicked me and beat me with his fists, and it just went on and on. He then picked up a heavy wooden chair and beat my legs with it. This was brutal, even for him.
I couldn’t understand why he was acting this way toward me. I wondered if it was because he had been diagnosed with cancer a few years earlier, and he was taking it out on me. Maybe he was angry that he was sick, or maybe he was afraid he would die. But, as far as I knew, he was in remission. And he constantly kept me working so he could afford to get the best medical care possible. So that couldn’t be it. I knew he had good days and bad days. Maybe this was a bad day. Or maybe there was no explanation and he was just mean. I couldn’t understand how he could live with himself after doing such horrendous things to me.
The beating went on and on. He kept kicking me until there was blood everywhere. I was bleeding from my face, stomach, and vaginal area. As the blood spread around me on the floor, I drifted in and out of consciousness. I came to when he finally stopped beating me. That’s when I heard him talking about how he thought he had killed me.
My blood was everywhere. As I lay there, motionless, one of our staff got a towel and wiped up the evidence of what Gordon had done to me. She immediately washed the towel in the washing machine, so no one could see how badly I had been hurt.
I’m dying, and she’s already helping him to cover up the evidence, I thought.
Gordon had hired this person to be my assistant and housekeeper, but the real purpose was to watch me for him. Still, we spent a great deal of time together, and I was always pleasant. What hurt me more than anything else that night was that this person did nothing to protect or help me. All of the other workers were Gordon’s friends from Las Vegas, where he had a great deal of power. Before I met him, he served six months in prison for attempting to bribe the then chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, Harry Reid, and Reid later wrote that he suspected Gordon was behind a car bomb found on Reid’s car. So this person was completely on Gordon’s side and probably feared him as much as I did.
I was in so much pain that it was hard for me to focus. The next thing I knew, several policemen entered the room. That must have been the phone call that Gordon made. But I couldn’t figure out why he called them when he would surely get in trouble. Then I became aware of an object in my hand. I had no idea how it had gotten there.
One of the police officers squatted down near me so he could check my injuries and question me. I tried to focus on his face as he spoke, but everything was blurred.
“Who did this to you?” he asked.
I knew better than to tell the truth because Gordon had often warned me that if I ever spoke of his abuse to anyone, he would kill me or, even worse, kill Michael.
But I didn’t have to say anything.
“Who did this to you?” the officer asked again.
“I did it,” Gordon said.
“Put your hands behind your back,” one of the cops said to Gordon. “You’re under arrest. You’re going to jail.”
They didn’t know Gordon the way I did. He had prepared for this.
He pointed to the knife someone had put in my hand. “She came after me with a knife. It was self-defense.”
I couldn’t believe that after trying to assassinate me, he would try to assassinate my character in an attempt to avoid blame for his awful abuse, on top of everything else he had done to me that night. I would never have come after him with a knife, even to save my own life, and he knew it. I wanted to shout out that it wasn’t true, but I could barely breathe, let alone speak. And of course, I would never have dared to disobey Gordon, especially in front of the police. Luckily, the cops weren’t impressed with his story, and they handcuffed him and led him away.
Gordon knew better than to threaten me in front of the police officers, but he gave me a warning look that told me I’d better not say a word, OR ELSE. Those of you who have been through abuse, or are going through it now, know what those unspoken words meant: I’d get a worse beating than the one I had just received if I didn’t obey him. Not that he needed to warn me. Like so many victims of domestic abuse, I always protected my abuser. Even after he left the room, it was as if he were still watching me.
I was certain I was dying. My ribs felt broken, and the pain in my sides forced me to take short, shallow breaths. Big chunks of blood were coming out of me and forming new puddles on the floor.
And still I was covering up for Gordon. I didn’t want to answer any questions. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I just wanted everyone to go away so I could climb into bed and be alone with my pain, my shame, and my fear. But no matter how much I closed my eyes and wished them away, the cops wouldn’t leave.
“You have to go to the hospital, whether you want to or not,” a cop said. “You don’t have a right to say that you won’t go. You have to get checked out.”
I must have drifted into unconsciousness again because I don’t remember leaving my home, or what the bellhop or doorman must have thought as I was carried out through the opulent lobby of our building. I don’t know whether the police officers called an ambulance or transported me in one of their squad cars, but when I came to, I was in Lenox Hill Hospital. And I wasn’t alone. The person Gordon had hired to watch over me was looking at me with the same expression Gordon had given me when he was led away in handcuffs. I sank deeper into the emergency room cot where I lay, trying to avoid the menacing gaze.
“You’d better not say anything.”
Tears welled in my eyes. I wanted to cry because of the terror I had just experienced, the pain that gripped me now, how alone I was, and how helpless I felt.
But I knew better than to show any emotion, and I was afraid that if I started crying, I would never stop. Before long, a young doctor came in. I immediately began lying because I knew that what I said would be reported directly back to Gordon.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I said. “You don’t have to do this.”
The doctor clearly didn’t believe me. He gently moved his hands over my torso and legs, trying to measure the damage. I kept myself from wincing at his touch.
“Does this hurt?” he asked.
“No. Don’t touch me there. Please. It’s okay.”
“Well, we need X-rays.”
“No, you don’t have to do that,” I said. “I’m fine. Can I go home, please?”
I forced myself to sit up, even though the pain was excruciating, just so the doctor would think my injuries weren’t bad and allow me to leave. I checked myself out and refused to make a follow-up appointment. Once outside, the Town Car that Gordon and I kept for traveling within the city was waiting for me. The staff member and I rode home in silence. All I wanted was to get into bed before Gordon was released from custody and came home to torment me further.
The ordeal was not yet over. An assistant district attorney came over with several people the following day and insisted she be allowed to check up on me. Gordon’s hired help refused. The assistant district attorney kept up until she finally got her way. When she first saw me, she gasped. I could understand her reaction. I felt like the Elephant Man. My left eye was swollen shut and my right eye was black-and-blue. My lips, which were the size of a saucer, were so big and swollen that I could not close my mouth. Saliva constantly dripped out, no matter how often I inhaled to try to keep this from happening.
“Would you like to press charges?” the assistant district attorney asked.
“No, thank you,” I said.
No matter how painful and uncomfortable my injuries were, I definitely knew better than to do that.
“Can I at least take pictures of your injuries?” she asked.
The hired help intervened then, defiantly. “Absolutely not.”
The assistant district attorney tried to convince her.
“No, no, no!” the woman said.
She knew that if pictures of my face got out, Gordon would be in a great deal of trouble, and she took her job to protect him seriously. As desperate as I was to receive help of any kind, I didn’t dare speak up. I actually wished the people would stop trying to help me and leave me alone. I was still convinced that if I could just find the perfect way to behave around Gordon, I could make the situation better. Little did I know, it would only get worse.
© 2011 Ja-Tail Publishing Company