Authors: Jamie Bowers
‘Whatever you have in those pants of yours must be big and brass.’ Richards said.
‘I’m innocent.’ Joe said as the police officer stopped him in front of the Captain.
‘I know what happened, Parcoli. I know about you being set up. The question is what happened here?’ Joe lifted his head to look Richards straight in the eye.
‘I will own up to anything I have done.’ He said with a tear running down his cheek. ‘I killed them. It’s my fault that they are dead and it’s my fault that Francis is dead, too.’ Richards kept his gaze on Joe as he spoke.
‘Let’s get you back to your cell. I’m sure that is much more fitting for you.’ The police officer dragged Joe by his arm through the vehicles to a prison van. A prison guard opened the back door and Joe was greeted by Warden Tanner sitting on the bench. He was dressed in a dark brown suit with a matching tie and white shirt.
‘Get in, Parcoli.’ Tanner said. Taking a big intake of smoke from his cigar he gestured to the seat opposite. ‘I bet you need to sit down. You can take the cuffs off him now.’ The guard removed the handcuffs and Joe limped to the back step. He pulled himself up slowly and shuffled onto the seat facing Tanner. Without any more words being said the doors closed, the engine started and they were on their way.
The only light into the van came from the street lights shining through the small window in the door. As they went through the streets the light flickered off Tanner’s face as he smoked his cigar. He dipped his hand into his pocket, took out a cigar and passed it Joe.
‘No tricks this time.’ He said igniting his lighter and extending his arm. Joe took an inhale of the cigar and blew it out as he sat back into the seat
‘What’s with the niceties?’ Joe asked.
‘When I first met you I thought you were just another criminal like the rest of them. But, I read your file and it intrigued me to know a little more about you. I needed to test you and I figured that being from the army like myself you would be honest and truthful with me.’
‘I was,’ Joe replied, ‘I am.’
‘I know that now and I applaud what you have done to get to truth, even if that meant drawing my entire prison’s security into question.’ Joe placed his arm across his stomach and felt the swelling had gotten more than before. With all the action, he had forgotten about his pains.
‘I spoke to Doctor Gable,’ said Tanner leaning forward, ‘he’s told me what’s wrong with you.’
‘How long do I have left?’ Joe asked, staring down at the blood on his trousers.
‘From what he says it sounds like only a few weeks before you are no longer able to function properly.’ Joe rubbed his eyes with his hand in the hope he would wake up from an elaborate dream. Tanner stubbed out what was left of his cigar under his shoe, grinding the ash into the metal paintwork.
‘You will need to stand trial for what you have done, son.’ Tanner said. ‘But with your condition and your fucked up leg I have managed to convince some people that you will remain under my watch until that day comes. Just remember, once we get back inside of those gates I am not your friend, I am the asshole who tells you what to do and if you try anything you will spend your last days in solitary.’
‘I know.’ replied Joe as he took another inhale from the expensive cigar. ‘Thank you.’
The remainder of the journey felt like it lasted twice as long as it should to Joe as no more words were said between the two men.
Eventually, they reached the prison, the van stopped outside whilst the gate was opened. The van pulled into the yard and the rear doors opened. Three guards stood waiting for Joe, all firmly holding rifles in their hands. Tanner stepped off the van first and walked directly into the doors of the prison without saying a word. Joe stumbled to his feet, struggling to put his weight on his damaged leg. Two men dressed in medical uniforms pushed a wheelchair to the rear step of the van.
‘First stop, the infirmary to get you better.’ One of them, said.
‘I haven’t got that kind of time.’ Said Joe, hopping out of the van and into the chair.
Joe was quickly pushed in through the doors, escorted by the guards and infirmary workers. They had all gone in through what appeared to be the prison’s back entrance. It was probably planned this way so the other inmates didn’t see Joe had returned, maybe they all thought he was still in the infirmary. They went up the elevator to the fourth floor where Doctor Gable met them at the door. He didn’t look at Joe, just spoke to the other guards.
‘This way.’ He said and led them all to an empty room. ‘Get him on the bed and I can take it from here.’ Joe got out of the chair and hopped onto the bed. With the exception of Doctor Gable, all the men left, one of them taking the wheelchair with him. Gable walked over to Joe and picked up a clipboard from the table beside the bed.
‘Take your trousers off, please.’ He said as he took a pen from his top pocket.
‘What’s the matter, Doc.’ Said Joe reaching out his hand. ‘Don’t you remember me?’ Gable dropped the papers on the bed and grabbed Joe by his collar.
‘Why, Joe? Why? She was just a girl with a big heart and you got her killed. How could you do that to her?’ His eyes welled up as his rage escalated. ‘We could have helped you if you had stayed here and nobody would have got hurt.’ Joe grabbed Gable’s hands and pushed him away.
‘I’ve lost everything that was special to me too. You think I don’t know what I’ve done? I’ve caused nothing but pain to everyone and now I’m going to die and nobody is going to be there for me.’ Tears streamed down his face with every word that was said. Gable walked out of the room and started to close the door behind him.
‘Wait!’ shouted Joe. ‘Aren’t you going to see to my leg?’ Gable turned as he pulled the door to.
‘Someone else will help you.’ he said. The door closed and Joe was right back where he was before, alone with nothing but his thoughts for company and no way of getting into the free world.
What seemed like several hours passed and nobody came to see Joe. Tears continuously soaked into his pillow as his emotions ran wild. Eventually, the matron came along with a nurse to asses Joe’s injuries. With their help, Joe lowered his trousers to reveal his bone once again protruding through his leg. The nurse lifted his foot to remove his shoe and blood started to stream out of the wound. Joe struggled in pain but tried his best to keep still so that the matron could examine the damage. Nothing was spoken between the matron and nurse but they seemed to have a connection so each of them knew exactly what was going on. The nurse stepped out into the corridor and wheeled in a trolley adorned with various pieces of medical equipment and medication. She passed a few items to the matron who started to dab the break with some cloth to soak up the blood. The nurse took a small roll from the trolley and passed it to Joe.
‘Put this in your teeth,’ she said handing him the piece of cork. ‘It will help you.’ Joe took it from her hand and placed it in his teeth. The nurse and matron both grabbed his knee and Joe closed his eyes. He could feel them pulling and twisting is limb, trying to set the bone back to where it was. Screaming in pain as he could feel the bone grind and pull against his nerves, he felt weak. His eyes became heavy and he became faint from the pain. In a moment he was asleep, breathing softly as he was pulled around like a child playing with an action figure, pulling the limbs in every direction.
Several hours passed and Joe finally awoke. The daylight through the window felt like it burnt his eyes like it had done many times previously. He started to turn his body over but was stopped by a sudden pain in his leg. Joe looked down to see that he now had pins and a brace protruding from his leg all held in place by a clean, white cast. The pain was a lot for him to take but he was happy that he didn’t need to run around on it anymore. He pushed himself upright to make it more comfortable to sit. On the table next to his bed was a glass of water and two tablets. Joe picked them up, placed the tablets in his mouth and took a sip of the water. He turned and placed the cup back on the table, as he lay back once more on the bed an alarming pain shot through his stomach, paralysing him instantly. He reached his hands up to the railing of the bedhead and pulled his body up, trying to relieve the pain, but nothing seemed to help.
‘Help!’ Joe shouted. ‘I’m in pain!’ A nurse came running in to his room and instantly injected Joe in the arm with a syringe she had concealed in the palm of her hand. The pain quickly disappeared and Joe fell straight back to sleep again. His last thought was that maybe this is what they are instructed to do if he became loud or aggressive.
Several days and then weeks passed with the same routine of nurses giving him daily medication and the matron checking on him. Not much was said to him other than ‘Does this hurt’ or ‘Swallow this’. Joe didn’t say much either, he was never interested in engaging in any conversation of his own. The pains from his abdomen were more regular, sometimes waking him several times on the night. Each time he screamed or shouted for help another nurse came in, injected his arm with a needle and he soon went to sleep again.
One morning, Joe opened his eyes to see Warden Tanner standing at the end of his bed with the matron and a nurse.
‘What are you doing here?’ asked Joe cautiously.
‘Today is the day that you get your legs back and I get you back in your cell where you belong.’ Replied Tanner.
The matron stepped forward with the nurse and they started to remove the cast and brace from around his leg, unscrewing and yanking each pin from his skin. Joe screamed in pain as the pins were removed, tearing some of the flesh that had grown around it. Eventually his full leg was exposed and Joe could see a small scar where his bone once protruded through the skin. The nurse took a bandage and quickly wrapped it around his leg to catch any blood that escaped from the wholes where the pins were. Tanner smiled in his own self-righteous way as the nurse finished the bandage.
‘That’s a good job you’ve done there.’ He said with a smug look on his face, ‘You can go now ladies and send the guards in.’ The matron and nurse went out of the door and almost instantly two guards appeared, one of them carrying a prison uniform for Joe. He threw the uniform on the bed between Joe’s feet.
‘You know the drill, Parcoli.’ Tanner said, ‘And don’t try anything stupid this time. I have two more guards outside who would love to show what two broken legs feels like and I am not afraid to let them.’ Joe sat up slowly and dropped his feet to the floor, the cold tiles sent a chill up his body. He stood up and dropped his gown to the floor, presenting his naked body to all those present. He slipped on the clothes carefully, trying to get used to his newly healed leg.
‘Everything is still the same,’ said Tanner, ‘right down to the number on your chest and the cell you will sleep in.’ Joe looked down at the number printed on his chest, ‘#63548’, the same as it was before. One of the guards stepped forward and grabbed Joe’s wrists, handcuffing them tight it was obvious they would go to any lengths to make sure he didn’t escape this time.
They led him into the corridor where they were met with the other guards. All of them, including Tanner went down in the elevator to the cell block. Through several gates and corridors they eventually arrived at Joe’s cell. The door already open and the Captain Richards sitting on his bed, waiting for his arrival.
‘That’ll do, guys.’ Said Tanner as they stopped outside Joe’s cell. One guard unlocked Joe’s handcuffs and they all left, leaving Joe with Tanner and Richards. Standing in the doorway to his cell Joe looked up and down the block.
‘They are all out in the yard,’ said Tanner. ‘It won’t be long before they are in here making all kinds of noise, so I would enjoy this peace while I can if I was you.’ Joe stepped forward into his cell and Captain Richards stood from the bed and stared Joe straight in the eye.
‘I know what has happened out there, but if I hear you talking about it in here it will be the last thing you tell anyone. Do you understand me?’ Joe just nodded in agreement. Richards left the cell and stood outside, just behind Tanner.
‘Lock up 335!’ Richards shouted down the row. In a moment the unmistakable sound of straining metal echoed around and Joe’s cell door was closed. Joe sat on the bed and stared at the wall in front of him. Tanner stepped forward to the cell and tried to engage a conversation.
‘I forgot to tell you,’ he said leaning on the bars. ‘Tomorrow is your trial. So you finally have time to tell your side of the story. Everything from escaping prison and stealing a van to killing a prison nurse and your wife.’ Joe remained silent, still staring at the same spot on the blank wall that faced him. Tanner and Richards walked away without trying to engage any further. Joe kept the same position for the rest of the day, remaining in deep thought. No noise or activity from the other inmates seemed break his concentration. Soon, night fell and the other inmates went to bed, all was much quieter once again.
Laying his head on the pillow in his cell, Joe heard the familiar sound of the guards shouting and the lights going out. As he stared up from the bed, the moonlight from his cell window shone a beam through the dust in the air making it look like stars dancing in the night. Joe embraced the thought of being outside again and knew that he would never get to see anything as nice as that in the free world again. Exhausted from thought he wanted to go to sleep but the feelings that were running at an alarming rate through his mind. He started to think if he has done the right thing and gotten the closure he wanted. Surely if he was happy with his decisions then sleep would come easier for him. He sat up and slipped off his shirt and trousers, looking down at the scars on his leg Joe recalled the pain he endured from the injury and was amazed that he was able to walk again. As he stood up wearing nothing more than his socks and underpants he looked outside his cell and could see the distinct silhouette of the guard standing opposite, watching his every move. This was one of Warden Tanner’s orders to make sure he didn’t do anything he shouldn’t.
‘Hey!’ Joe shouted to the guard.
‘Keep it down, Parcoli.’ The guard said back to him, ‘You should be going to sleep if you know what’s good for you.’
Joe stepped to the edge of his cell and placed his hands on the bars, ‘Do you like what you see? Does it get you off watching a man get undressed, you sick fuck?’ The guard took a small step closer into the light generated from the overhead lamps in the corridor.
‘Don’t flatter yourself, Parcoli. Besides, I can’t see anything past the bars; I can’t even see where you are in there or what you’re doing. You could jerk off in there and apart from the moans you guys give off; we don’t know what’s going on. This is as private as you’re going to get, so I’d make the best of it if I was you.’
Joe walked over to the toilet in the corner of his cell and pulled down his underpants. Sitting on the cold metal rim, Joe did the best he could to look around his cell and could see nothing more than his cot complete with a thin mattress, pillow and blanket.
‘So, this is what I am going to live and die with,’ he muttered to himself, ‘no possessions other than the body that I was given when I entered this world.’ Standing up he used a small piece of paper from the toilet paper and threw it into the bowl. Joe pulled the chain and flushed the toilet; the sound of rushing water broke the silence throughout the building so that everyone knew if you were awake. He pulled up his underpants and stepped over to his bed.
Joe reached to his pillow and ripped it open, the feathers spilled out, making a mess over the bed and floor.
The sound of the material ripping alerted the guard outside. ‘What’s going on in there?’ he shouted into Joe’s cell.
‘Getting ready for bed,’ Joe replied as he continued to destroy the bedding. He carefully pulled the stitching open and grabbed one half of the case, tying one end to the railing above the middle bar on his cell door. Crouching down, Joe leant against the cell door and pulled the material around his neck. Tying it off at the back of his head, he gave it a pull to make sure it was tight.
His eyes filled with tears as he took a deep breath. ‘I’m sorry.’ he whispered to himself before straightening his legs in front. With his torso hanging a few inches from the floor, the knot became tighter and quickly stopped the blood and air from circulating through. Joe raised his hands to the railing above his head and pulled himself higher.
The guard outside could hear Joe kicking his feet against the bed and quickly stepped to the cell door. Grabbing his flashlight from his utility belt as quickly as he could, he turned it on and pointed it at into the cell to see Joe hanging by his neck.
‘Open up 335, now!’ he shouted in a panic down the cell block. With his legs still stiff in front of him and his heels resting on the ground, Joe released his grip on the bars and quickly fell before the door was opened. The sound of bone breaking silenced the clatter from the cell door being unlocked. The door started to open, sliding Joe’s lifeless, limp body across the floor. It wouldn’t open all the way as the material got caught between the cell bars. The guard quickly stepped into Joe’s cell as the lights were turned on, making it easier to see. He pulled on the cloth around Joe’s neck and on the bars, the knots were too tight for him to untie so he reached into his pocket and took out a small knife. Cutting the cloth free as quickly as he could, Joe’s body dropped to the floor, still lifeless and limp, the colour had already drained from his skin. The guard pressed his fingers against his neck as two more guards arrived and stood at the cell door.
‘What happened here?’ said one guard as he stepped inside.
‘Better get the Captain.’ he said, taking his hand away from Joe’s neck, ‘He’s dead.’