Authors: Ike Hamill
Cover design by BelleDesign [BelleDesign.org]
Copyright © 2014 Ike Hamill
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events have been fabricated only to entertain. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of Ike Hamill. (4)
I’d like to dedicate
this book to you,
Please don’t reenact
anything you read
in this book.
CHAPTER 1: PRISON
Diary of Thomas Hicks, 1977
the end of the track, it rings with a metallic CLUNK. Until then, it sounded like an ancient stone sliding into place across the doorway of a tomb.
Officer Fradeux doesn’t start speaking until we begin our walk. I’m out in front. He walks a few steps behind, and speaks as if this is a lecture.
“Alfred Price Hudson. David Murray Mitchell. Harris King Hopkins. Christopher Brian Poole, Jr. Between the four of them, they accumulated forty-four thefts, one-hundred batteries, fifty-one counts of arson, thirteen escape attempts, and a grand total of seventy-three murders.”
I’m carrying everything I’ll need for the night—two sheets, one blanket, one pillow, and, of course, my notebook.
Officer Fradeux isn’t finished yet. “We have plenty of other cells in his establishment that have housed a multitude of distinguished alumni. What I find interesting about this particular cell is that it held the four worst inmates, and it held all four of them
they committed their major crimes.”
The other cells we pass on the block are all empty. I will be one of the last people to reside in this prison before the state demolition teams move in next week. In a year, this land will be a baseball field.
“In 1955, this wing was added to house prisoners expected to soon transition to parole. In 1971, with the escape of Christopher Poole, that experiment was terminated.”
We’re at the end of the line. The path ahead is blocked by bars, painted dark gray. I turn around to face my escort.
“This is it,” he says, gesturing to his left. “Why do I get the feeling that none of what I just said was news to you?”
I shrug, but he stares me down. He wants an answer.
“I’m a reporter. I wouldn’t show up here without doing my research,” I say.
He leads me into the cell. It’s small, but not nearly as bad as I had imagined from the pictures. The walls are concrete, but they’re clean and painted white. The mattress is thicker than I expected. I have my own sink and toilet.
“Most people want to see where the big four were kept
their major crime sprees. What’s your fascination with this place?”
“It’s not a fascination,” I say. “But this is the one place they all had in common. Maybe I’d like to get a sense of who they were before their murders.”
“This cell also housed a hundred inmates you never heard of. And if this
some weird obsession you’ve been cultivating, you certainly went to a lot of trouble to get here.”
He’s right about that. We had to pull a lot of strings to get my stay here authorized.
I don’t bother to reply.
“I’ve got three men working tonight. We’ll all be down in the offices, packing up the last of the records. If you need something, just yell. Someone’s bound to hear you if you yell loud enough.”
It turns out, he’s right about that too. But, at the time, I certainly had no premonition that I would be doing any yelling. I was dead wrong.
CHAPTER 2: BALCONY
balcony railing was made from a latticework of slats, stretching between the uprights. It bowed out and creaked as the fingers threaded into the open diamonds between the slats. His head appeared over the railing. A crinkled paper bag was clamped between his teeth.
The man grunted as he finally pulled himself up high enough to swing his leg over.
He flopped down in one of the chairs with a sigh.
“Here,” he said, holding out the paper bag to the silent man who occupied the other chair. “Hope it’s worth it.”
James simply nodded and took the bag. He set it down on the deck next to his chair. After a second, he dug in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a five. He tried to hand it to Bo.
“What’s that for? You already paid for the booze.” Bo wiped the sweat from his brow.
“For delivery,” James said. “I appreciate it.”
Bo waved his hand. “Don’t mention it. That’s just how we do for our neighbors.” He pushed up on the arms of his chair, like he was going to rise, but then he settled back down with another sigh. He pinched the front of his shirt between two fingers and tented it up for a second. “You’ve got good trees here. Do you know what my momma used to say about trees?”
James shook his head.
“She said that there’s some trees that tap their roots down into the cool water. When they bring that water up, it naturally cools the air. They take in sun on one side, and let off a natural air conditioning on the other. Those are the kind of trees you have. It’s got to be ten degrees cooler up here than down on the street.”
“It’s nice,” James said, nodding.
“They have heat like this where you’re from?” Bo asked.
James nodded. It didn’t come as frequently, but it was there. He didn’t bother to say any of that to Bo, who seemed comfortable carrying the whole weight of their conversation.
“On the other side of this rathole building, we get the sun all afternoon and not a breath of air. If you were to set foot on
balcony, you could fry an egg on the top of your head. I’ve got all my blinds drawn and the AC set to ten, just so I only sweat through my clothes twice a night. Of course, you have your blinds drawn too,” Bo said, glancing over his shoulder.
James didn’t reply. His hand was already resting on his front pocket, where the key made a familiar lump. The door was locked; he was sure of that. There was no need to check again.
“So are you going to break out that bottle, or what? I’m not big on imposing or anything, but I’ve never tasted gin that cheap before, and I have to admit that it makes a little curious why you were so specific.”
“Of course,” James said. He sat up straight and reached for a glass, sitting on a metal end table. He flipped the glass upside down and shook it, to dislodge the dust and pollen. Bo watched as James wiped the rim of the glass with his shirt and then clamped it between his legs. James pulled out the gin, cracked the top, and poured a couple inches of the clear liquid into the glass. He handed the drink to Bo, who took it in both hands.
“Okay,” Bo said. “I guess I was expecting some water, or ice, or a mixer of some sort, but when in Rome.”
Before Bo could take a sip of the cheap gin, he watched James tip up the bottle, taking a big swig and gulping it down. James twisted the cap back on the bottle and looked over to Bo.
“Cheers,” Bo said. He took a sip and immediately stretched his mouth into a grimace. “Oh, God. Tastes like berries and Pine Sol.”
Bo tried another sip. “Jesus. I suspect that the second sip tasted just as bad, but I’ll be damned if I can tell. I think my taste buds shut off.”
James uncapped the bottle, took another swig, and then closed it back up again. He set the bottle down at his side.
“So, what is it you do?”
James didn’t answer immediately. He put his hands together and began massage the knuckles of his right hand with his left.
“I won’t pass anything along to the women on the first floor,” Bo said. “They trade everyone’s secrets around like nothing. You can tell me though. I won’t divulge any of your personal information.”
“It’s no secret,” James said. “I’m a writer.”
“Oh? Anything I’d know?” Bo asked.
“No,” James said. “It’s technical stuff. It’s not for the masses.”
“Work’s work, I guess. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it pays steady. Although I’m guessing it doesn’t pay particularly well since you’re living here. But, you don’t have a commute. That has to be nice.”
“Holy smokes, this stuff goes right to your head, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little conversational when I drink. Yeah, I can tell just by looking at you—you’re a real chatterbox when you get lit up. Look at you. You’re about to tell me your life story, aren’t you?”
“So this technical writing—what’s it about?” Bo asked.
James shook his head. “I wouldn’t be able to describe it.”
“That has to be some frustrating for a writer. As long as I’m being nosy, you must get all your other groceries from somewhere. Why don’t you get your booze at the same time? It’s not that I resent it, but why do you need me to fetch your gin for you?”
“It’s easier for me to regulate if someone else is getting it for me,” James said. He gave Bo another shrug.
“Ah, I think I get it. I had an uncle like that. He was my daddy’s brother. If you let him loose on a liquor cabinet, he would drink himself to death. But as long as he only drank in bars, shame would keep him from getting in too deep. Is that about right?”
“That’s a good way of putting it,” James said.
“Maybe I should be a writer,” Bo said with a big smile. “When I’m working my AC job, do you know what I do all day? Air filters. All day long, that’s ninety-percent of my job. You think you’re going to learn something about compressors, or evaporators, or airflow, but all you do is air filters. I had a friend that went into veterinary school because she loved animals so much. You know what she does all day?”
James shook his head.
“She gives vaccinations and cuts off sex organs. Every now and again, she gets to squeeze some anal glands or wash out a crusty ear. Can you imagine? All that school and she’s basically doing two procedures day in and day out,” Bo said.
“She must get some interesting cases,” James said.
Bo laughed. “I guess she might if she worked in some nice suburb, but she’s working for country folk. If she sees anything interesting or challenging, people won’t spend money on it. They tell her that they’re going to think about it, and then they take the dog home and shoot it. Can you imagine? I can’t. I’d rather change air filters, I guess.”
Bo took another sip of his gin. His face twisted into the same expression.
“I should get going. I’ve got a hot date tonight. Hot! You want the next bottle on Thursday, right?”
James nodded. “You can just toss it to me over the railing, if you want.”
Bo stood up and turned to James. He narrowed his eyes at the man. “You just sit up here alone. You don’t want the company?”
“No, it’s not that,” James said. “I was only concerned that you were risking your life, climbing up here.”
“Oh,” Bo said, flapping his hand towards James. “Don’t worry about me. I’m half monkey. Okay, I will see you on Thursday with another bottle. Don’t drink it all at once. In fact, based on the taste, don’t drink it at all. Are you sure I can’t bring you some tonic water or something?”