ABOUT SEVEN MONTHS LATER
THE GIFT THAT ONLY A FATHER COULD GIVE
The alarm clock was chirping away like a gecko wired on amphetamines. My weekend was over, another week of work on deck. I groaned and rolled over to the edge of the bed and sat up. As usual my knee had seized up in the middle of the night and it took me a good five minutes to stretch and limber it up. It wasn't the only thing that was stiff – I dreamt about Lita again last night – I did every night. I just couldn’t get her out of my mind; I just couldn’t let her go.
And nowI had to visit the old man before my shift. Fuck!
My Father, after living a life that would have shamed Caligula had been dropped right in his tracks by a massive stroke. I had been stunned when I walked into my Dad’s room right after that goddamn road trip with that insane fucking cowboy and saw him stretched out on his bed. He looked like he had shrunk to half his original size and his red hair had turned snow white.
His voice was a whisper but what he had to say came out in one straight rush, “I know it's not much but it’s a start. It'll help get ya on your feet. Forget that rock and roll shit. I’m sorry about your girl but it’s time ya grew up. Nothing wrong about a little work. Don't be so damn uppity. Sometimes ya remind me of your mother. I had to pull a lot of strings to get ya on there. Damn it Junior, I'm trying to say I'm sorry. I’m going to make it all up to you one day. Just have some patience and you’ll see what your old man did for you.”
After years of stumbling home drunk or stoned - if at all -chasing whores, driving my mother to first disappear inside herself before the booze and pills did her in – intentionally or not - and piling on mountains of psychological abuse on his only son (me) until I left home at seventeen, that was dear old Dad's way of apologizing – things will get better if you just have some patience.
Robert O. Zigstrom, Sr. had been a state employee for thirty years before retiring and he still had some favors owed to him by a few old buddies and contacts and he had called in the favor –conveniently ignore the fact that his son had been kicked out the service with a DD and had done time on the background check required for employment – so that he could make amends to his only son by getting him a gig as a guard at the Minnesota Prison for the Criminally Insane.
The hits on the background check were ignored and I took the job. My life had already hit rock bottom so what the hell.
With my knee finally limber enough to stand, I limped over to my dresser to retrieve my stash. I grabbed it and limped down to the kitchen and fired up the espresso machine. My breakfast of champions. A big fat hooter washed down with five shots of espresso. Black. After the high octane caffeine kicked in, I would start in on my daily two hundred push up and sit ups – I had always been thin and now felt the need to bulk up some - followed by an hour on my six hundred dollar exercise bike (which was the only thing of value I owned in the house). This was a regime I had started after a 300 pound transvestite sex offender had kicked my ass my third week at work. I hadn’t even gotten off probation and had gotten my ass handed to me. Took me a while to live that down.
I was just finishing up my ride, drenched in sweat, when Christina walked in. The night shift was starting to wear on her, she looked liked crap, not that she had ever been a real beauty. And she was putting on a lot of weight – not the sexy kind like Lita had as she had aged like a fine French wine - her uniform was starting to look pretty tight. The kind of weight Christina was putting on could best be described as the kind of pounds one earned at dining at Burger King on a semi-daily basis. Christina was a corn fed women.
"Dave wants you to drop off a bag on your way to work. He'll leave the door open." Dave was Christina's younger brother and also the biggest stoner at the prison. He was by far my best customer, I sold him a half an ounce of weed every two days at the least. Even though I was now a prison guard – and a majority of my fellow guards were wicked stoners, lots of ganja smokers but even more speed freaks - I still continued my side business of dealing weed. It seems that some things just never change.
I nodded while I wiped the sweat off my bike. "No problem. I'll drop it off after I go see Dad."
Christina started to strip her uniform off as she walked down the hall leaving the clothes where they fell. "I'm going to bed. Try to keep the goddamn music down today. I'm getting sick of hearing that shit when I'm trying to sleep."
I wearily shrugged my shoulders at her back as she lumbered down the hallway and rolled into the bed – I thought I could actually hear the springs groan. Our six month relationship had never been great but what was left of it was slowly sailing down the crapper. We had been hired around the same time and had attended the corrections academy together. The academy had been three weeks long and had been held in Duluth. We had been put up at a Holiday Inn and the nights had been cold, long, and boring. Which led to a few beers and a few joints in the lonely evenings which of course had eventually had led to some feverish fucking and before I knew it we were renting this goddamn house together.
Loading up the CD tray, I put on my headphones and lay down on the couch. I felt dangerously down. Even the music wasn’t helping my mood and that was about all it seemed I had left. Steve Earle was singing about “Amsterdam always being good for grieving” on Fort Worth Blues. I should never listen to that song, but I had to listen to it at least twice a day, it was required listening for some reason. That one line in that song always made me think about Lita and then a little later about maybe blowing my brains out. I got up from the couch as I decided to get the visit with my Dad out of the way.
Halfway there I ran out gas. That bitch Christina had taken my car to work and hadn’t put any goddamn gas in it! When I pushed the car to the gas station I thought about once I got there I could douse myself with premium unleaded and light a cigarette and get this shit over with.
I walked into the nursing home stinking of sweat and gas and I had been wearing a fresh goddamn uniform on top of it so that really pissed me off. The old dude was laying flat on his back staring at ceiling. Only his eyes moved as I walked in the room. He looked like hell, even worse than usual. A nurse stood by his side checking his vitals. She shook her head at me and motioned for me to step out into the hallway with her.
“Don’t stay long. He’s had a long, rough night, and the morning hasn’t been any better.”
“What’s wrong? Is he taking a turn for the worse?”
She folded her hands under rather fine looking breasts. The nurse’s name was Janine, she had graduated a couple years after I had, and was pretty much the nurse who always took care of my Dad during the day shift. She was borderline hot and I harbored a sexual fantasy – which I used often - about Lita, Janine, and me, involved in a no holds barred threesome when I was forced to perform with Christina.
“The police were here but your father refused to talk to them. They just left. You must have just missed them.”
“The police? What the hell would they want to talk to him about?”
“They were actually more than local police. They were FBI. I don’t know what they wanted because they asked me to leave the room even though I told them that he was very sick, but from outside the door I could hear that he was either refusing to talk to them or just plain couldn’t. When they came out they asked me if he could speak.”
“What did you tell them?’
She gave me a little smile which showed off her adorable overbite. Very, very sexy. “I told them that his ability to speak sort of came and went depending on the day and on his medical condition.”
I reached out and touched her arm. ‘Thanks. I’ll go talk to Dad and see what it was all about.” I turned and started to walk back into his room.
“Ziggy, they wanted me to call them if he started to talk so that they could come back and talk to him.” She handed me a card. “Here, you can take it.”
I looked down at the card. She was right. They were more than just cops. They were goddamn FBI!
The old man waved me over with a feeble wave of his hand. The old bastard had quit wearing his teeth and his head looked like a shrink wrapped skull. Hideous! I gave a bit of a shudder when I leaned over my Father’s face to hear him, his voice was raspy.
"Junior, thank Christ you finally fucking got here. The key, get the key.”
“Dad! What in the hell are you talking about? What fucking key? What the hell was the goddamn FBI doing here?”
His eyes rolled towards the Cuban cigar box on the nightstand. The son of a bitch used to smoke expensive illegal cigars while my mother was forced to clip coupons and go to three different stores to buy groceries. I opened the lid and saw a single key on an Atlantic City casino key chain. Underneath it was an envelope with "Junior" written on it. When I looked back to my father, his eyes lit up for a second and then went totally vacant. The old man was dead. Just like that.
I stood there in shock for a minute or so until I came around and rang the nurse’s buzzer. Janine walked in back in.
“I think he just died,” I stammered. “He told me to get this letter out of his cigar box and when I looked back over at him he was gone.”
Janine was checking his pulse and was shaking her head as if in wonder.
"I can't believe he lasted this long. I think he was hanging on until you got here. He had been asking for you all morning until those men got here."
"Could you give me a few minutes alone with him?" I sat down next to his bed.
“Take all the time you need.” She patted me on the shoulder and shut the door as she left.
As soon Janine walked out the door I ripped the envelope open. Almost an hour passed while I kept re-reading the letter then staring at dear old Dad who appeared to be starting to stiffen up.
"Is this another one of your goddamn jokes you old prick?”
There was no answer of course, although Robert Sr. did seem to have a semblance of a grin on his face.
I patted him on his cheek and pulled the sheet over his head. “If this is all true, they sure broke the fucking mold the day you were born.”
I walked down to the charge nurse station. “My Father didn’t want any services or anything like that. He just wanted to be cremated. I’ll call the funeral home and have them pick him up. His letter said that he has everything arranged with them already.”
Janine had tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Ziggy.”
“Thank you, Janine. You were his good friend.”
It was all I could to do to keep from running out of that goddamn place!
THE DAY THAT ZIGGY’S MIND IS BLOWN
(AND NOT BY MIND ALTERING SUBSTANCES)
I figured it wouldn’t take the feds long to come see me but I didn’t think that they would be such heartless bastards to actually come over to my place the day after he died. But then at ten a.m. sharp, there they stood on my front porch ringing the doorbell. I could hear Christina shrieking curses like a mental patient through the closed bedroom door. When they flashed their badges at me I stepped out on to the porch and closed the door.
“Do you mind if talk out here? My girlfriend is sleeping. She works the night shift and she’s kind of cranky.”
“Not a problem. Mr. Zigstrom, I’m FBI Agent Daniel Sylvia. Let me tell you first of all that I am sorry for your loss.”
I sat down on the porch railing. “Thank you, but it wasn’t like it was expected.”
“It’s still hard to accept. I know, I’ve lost both of my parents,” he sighed.
The other agent stepped forward and extended his hand. “FBI Agent Andrew Pederson, sorry about your father, and we know this is a bad time but we have a few questions to ask if you don’t mind.”
Both of these dudes seemed like they had walked straight off a FBI recruiting poster. Black suits, shined black shoes, high and tight haircuts – almost Marine Corps issued. They were both about the same height – six foot give an inch or so – Nautilus physiques, the only difference between them was Sylvia probably had some Hispanic blood in him while Pederson looked like he was a lad straight off the farm in Nebraska, he also had a bead of sweat on his brow and was a tad green around the gills. I had been around enough cops that I wasn’t going to buy into their bullshit about how deeply moved they were by dear old Dad’s passing on. Hell, I myself had gone to work after I had left the nursing home even though my supervisor must have asked me twenty times if I wanted to go home so I couldn’t understand why they would give a shit.
“Please have a seat, gentleman,” I motioned to the picnic bench. “And please call me Ziggy.”
Pederson ignored my request. “Mr. Zigstrom, did you know a man named Hanus Miller?”
That one caught me by surprise immediately. Jesus Christ, I hadn’t heard that name in years. “Do you mean Gene Miller?”
“Hanus Eugene Miller. Yes.” Pederson wiggled his ass on the hard seat trying to get comfortable; maybe he had terrible hemorrhoids that were acting up on him.
Better to be vague here. “He was a friend of mine years ago, way back in my high school days.”
Sylvia spoke up for the first time. “And you did stay in contact with him during your enlistment in the Navy, did you not? At least for a while it appears.”
What the hell could this be about? “Well, obviously you must know what happened since you guys are FBI and all.”
“Why don’t you tell us what happened, better to hear it in your words and not what we read on some old Navy documents,” Pederson piped in as he wiped his brow with his jacket sleeve.
“This is all ancient history, but what the hell; I’ll give you the short version. When I was stationed over in Hawaii I packaged up some marijuana and mailed it to Gene back here in Minnesota. It sold here like gangbusters because of the quality. I did it a number of times and then they ran the drug dogs through the base post office one day and I got busted. I did about a year in the Pearl Harbor brig and got my ass booted out of the Navy. End of fucking story.”
“Did you ever hear from Mr. Miller again?”
I shook my head. “No, can’t say I did. He must have heard about it from my Dad or someone else and it probably scared him off. I can understand why he’d be jumpy and paranoid with me going off to the brig.”
Sylvia gave a smirk. “Actually, Mr. Zigstrom, Mr. Miller was the reason that you were arrested in Pearl Harbor. He was arrested here in Minnesota on a possession charge with intent to sell and some federal charges concerning transportation of marijuana using the U. S. Postal Service. He made a deal for a short federal prison sentence up at the minimum camp in Duluth by informing who authorities his source was. The source was you, of course, Mr. Zigstrom.”
Deep down in my gut there had always been that suspicion but I just had never admitted it to myself. “I knew it! That fat bastard!” I shook my head and gave a chuckle. “I guess it all makes sense now.”
Both agents sat and stared at me silently and stoically. “What? What the hell is this all about? That was twenty some years ago, water way under the bridge. I did my time and that’s that. I’ve moved on in my life. I’ve paid my debt to society as they say.”
Pederson now wiped his brow with a handkerchief and leaned forward and rested his forearms across his knees. “Did you know Mr. Miller was murdered in June of 1995, the case still being unsolved.”
“Gene is dead. Really? He was murdered?”
“Yes, he was murdered,” Sylvia piped in. “Several days after he fell under suspicion of robbing the Northfield Bank of a very large sum of cash, over a hundred thousand dollars. A guard was killed and another guard was seriously injured to the point that he now resides in a residential facility.”
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. Gene Miller was a bank robber? I don’t believe it. The Gene Miller that I knew was a stone cold stoner, a huge pothead. Violence just was not his thing. That son of a bitch smoked so much weed you’d think that his hair was on fire. I could see him ripping off a pizza delivery boy for his pies after he caught a case of the munchies but that’s about it.”
“Oh, he was a bank robber and a murderer most likely, along with being a drug dealer, burglar, car thief, and a registered sex offender,” said Pederson.
“Sex offender?” Now they were saying Gene had been a sex offender. This was getting weirder by the minute.
“He did a bit in the very same prison you work at for exposing his genitalia to a couple of high school girls. Most likely that’s where he met your father.”
“My Father? What the hell does this have to do with my Father?”
Sylvia leaned back and loosened up his tie. “Yes, your father. Before your father passed away he was a suspect in the murder of Hanus Eugene Miller.”
Pederson suddenly groaned and held his stomach as he doubled over. Both Sylvia and I looked over at him like “what the hell?”
He glared at Sylvia and stood up. “Goddamn it! I told you I didn’t want to eat at that fucking Mexican joint for breakfast.” Pederson walked over to an oak tree in the yard and leaned against it with both hands like he was trying to push it over as he farted loudly and wetly.
Sylvia grinned at me. “He has a sensitive stomach. I think that breakfast burrito is backing up on him.”
My heart was literally weeping for the bastard. “What in the hell do you guys want? My Dad was a dentist who worked for the state. So he ran into Gene at the prison. That’s where my Dad worked – he went to all the state’s prisons and mental hospitals. Bumping into Gene would be no big deal.”
“Do you know this woman?” Sylvia held a photo up to me. The broad was huge and I mean huge. She literally filled the goddamn photo. She made Christina look as svelte as Bo Derek. Actually it wasn’t a photo but a mug shot. She had long dark hair that fell down across her shoulders in weird dreadlocks that had feathers and scarves stuck around in them but she wasn’t a Rasta, the bimbo was white as a sheet. She also had what looked like a ladybug tattooed on her cheek. Classy.
“No, can’t say I do but that’s one rugged looking old broad.”
Sylvia slid the photo back into his pocket. “Her name is Donna Gibson and she is the former girlfriend of Mr. Miller. They met when he was doing time at your prison. She worked as a cook in the kitchen until she got caught banging old Hanus. She was picked up a few weeks back in Galveston, Texas on prostitution and methamphetamine charges,” Sylvia shook his head in wonder. “Where do you think she was hooking at? Wal-Mart?” He gave a laugh. “Anyway, she has quite a rap sheet and she’s about ready to take a hard fall this time, probably three to five and she doesn’t want to do it, of course, especially in Texas. So she dropped a dime to the locals back here. She said she fled the state of Minnesota shortly after Mr. Miller was killed. And she said the reason being was that she feared for her life after Mr. Miller was killed by your father. That on the afternoon he was killed he was waiting on a visit from you father.”
“I don’t care what that hog says. That’s crazy! What reason would my father have to kill Gene, much less be going over to his house?”
An unbelievably loud fart interrupted us. “Sylvia! Wrap this up quick! We can come back later, I don’t feel too good.” Pederson had slumped down against the tree and was holding his forehead with one hand and his gut with the other.
“Go sit in the car and turn the air on, partner. There’s some Tums in the glove compartment. I’ll be done in about five minutes.”
Sylvia turned back to me. He held up three fingers. “Three solid reasons! Reason number one would be revenge. Hanus Miller turned you into the feds and you wound up with a DD and a year in the Navy brig. Reason number two would be that if Miller did in fact rob that bank, he was most likely still in possession of over a hundred grand. And reason number three is that tubby Donna said that Hanus had quite a taste for cocaine and that your father was coming over to deliver a large amount of pharmaceutical cocaine to Mr. Miller. Could have been a drug deal gone wrong.”
“Cocaine! My father was delivering cocaine to Gene Miller? This is so fucking stupid I can’t believe it!”
“We’ve uncovered in our investigation that your father had sole access to large amounts of pharmaceutical cocaine used in dental procedures throughout his entire career with the state of Minnesota.”
“Well, hell he was a goddamn dentist. Dentists do use cocaine in their dental work. Don’t they? That doesn’t make him a dealer.”
“Authorities with the state have documented that your father was warned numerous times for shoddy record keeping with his pharmaceuticals and that he was also counseled about maintaining relationships with former inmates after they left state custody, and every ex-inmate that he was counseled about had ties to various forms of organized crime. Your father wasn’t a man who liked to chum around with car thieves or liquor store robbers.” He reached into his jacket pocket again and held up another photo. “I take it you know this man.”
Oh shit! This was getting out of control very quickly. “Yes.” I tried not to gulp.
Sylvia flashed that shit eating grin again. “Good answer, because we know that your father paid this individual to track you down in California and bring you back here to Minnesota,” He leaned back in his chair and looked at the photo as he spoke to me. “And he is your uncle, of course.”
I sat up straight up. “My uncle? He’s not my uncle. I never met him until he came out to Barstow. He never even told me his name.”
“Oh, he’s your uncle all right. He’s your father’s half brother. They had the same mother but different fathers. His name is Calvin Thompson. He was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota which also is where your father was born. Cal is a high school dropout who enlisted in the Army to avoid jail time. Did a tour in Viet Nam where he specialized in tunnel entry, small weapons, and explosives. Shot a Marine Corps officer and did a jolt in LBJ prison – didn’t kill him but wounded him severely after shooting him in the testicles – Ouch! After he was released from prison and discharged from the military he basically dropped out of sight for a number of years but then began to turn up as a suspect in numerous contract hits and it was rumored that his services were contracted out by both organized crime and various branches of various governments. Never convicted of murder but he’s done time in Leavenworth, Marion, Atlanta, Huntsville, and most recently right here in Minnesota for assorted other felonies. In Minnesota he did his time in Oak Park Heights at the max facility. Your father at that time failed to report to corrections authorities that Mr. Thompson was his half brother when he was incarcerated at Oak Park. That is a strict violation of corrections policy and it was at this point that your father was asked to retire from state service, with full benefits, of course.”
I just sat there in stunned disbelief as Sylvia continued.
“In the sixties your father and uncle were arrested selling trucker’s speed also known as white cross. Charges were eventually dropped against your father but Mr. Thompson was charged and agreed to join the Army to avoid prosecution and prison time. So you see here, Ziggy, we have quite a tie-in here with all these assorted characters and their comings and goings, much more than a coincidence.”
“Look, I don’t know where this is going and what it has to do with me but my Dad and I never got along. I joined the Navy to get away from him and I hadn’t spoken to him in years. Not until he sent that cowboy, who you now say is my uncle and who I never knew, out to California to get me. I guess my Dad felt bad about what had gone down between us when I was kid and he wanted to make amends so he set me up with this job. So are you telling me that I’m a suspect in all this because of who he sent to find me and what my father may have down in the past? This makes no fucking sense to me.”
Sylvia stood up and shrugged. I caught a glimpse of his service weapon, some sort of semi-automatic. It looked black and deadly. “You tell me. But you have to admit this is all very strange. Your father has been suspected of pilfering pharmaceutical cocaine from the state, associating with known felons and former inmates - one of them being his half brother who himself is a suspect in dozens of unsolved murders - and before he passed away was a suspect in the murder of a drug dealer, suspected murderer and bank robber, and a known sex offender. And this dead individual happens to be a former childhood friend of yours who you were involved with in the transportation and sale of marijuana before he turns state’s evidence on you which results you doing a year in prison. All I can say is, Wow! That’s a coincidence as big and as long as John Holmes’ dick.”
He stepped off the porch and turned back to me. Now I have to get the hell out of here and tend to my partner before he soils the seats of our government issued vehicle. And, Mr. Zigstrom, by the way, I don’t want you to leave the area without our permission for the next few days until we get this all cleared up. Okay?”
The phone was ringing when I stepped back into the house and I could hear Christina cursing a blue streak from the bedroom. “Would you answer that fucking thing?” She shrieked out like a banshee.
“What did you tell them?”
The voice sounded familiar but it was hard to tell since it sounded like it was coming through either a pay phone or a bad cell phone with heavy traffic in the background. “Who the hell is this?”
I heard a chuckle. “How soon we forget. This is your old chauffeur calling to reminisce about old times. Now what did you tell them?”
“Thompson? Is that you? Or should I say Uncle? Fuck, man! What the hell have you and my old man gotten me into? Jesus Christ, those bastards were FBI!”
“I know those assholes say they’re FBI but fake badges are easy to get so they could be anyone and I mean anyone and that’s why you have to move quickly. And by quickly I mean tonight.”
I leaned against the wall and slid down on to the floor. “Is it true? I mean what the feds said? My Dad was a coke dealer and he killed Gene because Gene robbed a bank and had a shit load of money and he had snitched me off twenty years ago? And you’re a goddamn hit man who’s my Dad’s half brother? I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, I can’t process any of this shit through my brain – it’s like it’s overloading on me.”
It was quite on the other end of the line for about half a minute. I could just hear him breathing and the traffic in the background.
“Listen to me, Ziggy. Your father was a good man, flawed but then who of us isn’t in this shitty, fucked up world? Now listen closely because for all I know your phone has been tapped, did you read the letter? The letter that was in the cigar box that was on your father’s nightstand at the nursing home?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Well, what in the hell have you been waiting on? Do you understand what it says? The instructions in the letter? I wrote them down word for word from what your Dad told me. You should have called that phone number in the letter as soon as you read it because now time is of the essence, we have to scramble, there is no more time to waste. Follow the instructions to the detail and I guarantee this will work. You can get on with your life. But you have to do it tonight. We had no fucking idea the feds or whoever these assholes are would jump on this as fast as they did.”
“Is it true, Cal? What the FBI said? They say they found out because some broad that Gene was screwing dimed my Dad out. Is that where the money came from, the money that Dad talked about in his letter?” He got that money from killing Gene?”
“Don’t worry about where the fucking money came from? Does it really matter in the long run? Life is about just moving forward one step at a time – looking back to the past doesn’t do a goddamn thing, it’s over and you can’t relive it. But listen to me, maybe one time we can prove that wrong, You just follow the instructions and maybe your life will turn back around – maybe you can step back into your past this one time. Make things better for yourself.”
I just sat there on the floor wondering if my heart was going to burst out of my chest as I looked around this shitty house and thinking that it wasn’t any better than that trailer in the Barstow desert had been, that coming back to Minnesota hadn’t changed a fucking thing in my life. Seven months hadn’t changed shit. Yea, I had a job and a car and a girlfriend I hated … but so fucking what? What I really wanted I couldn’t have.
Or could I?
“Goddamn it, Ziggy! Are you there? What’s your answer?”
“It’s yes, goddamn it! It’s yes!”
“Good! Now I’ll meet you at the airport. Tomorrow morning at eleven sharp, in front of the bar that’s done up like that TV show, Cheers, it has those stupid fucking dummies sitting up at the bar like the characters on the show. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“I know the place.” I felt like stretching out and just passing out on the cool tile floor of the kitchen.
“I’ll take care of the paperwork and the reservations. You take care of everything else on your end. Remember it’s eleven sharp tomorrow! If you aren’t there I’m gone.”
The line went dead.
I looked up at the clock. I had a few hours before heading to work. As quietly as I could I showered, put on a fresh uniform, stuck a couple changes of clothes and some toiletries in an overnight bag, and closed the front door all without waking Christina. I threw my overnight bag in the trunk and took off. After making a quick stop at the drugstore I drove straight to her brother's apartment – I hadn’t delivered his pot yesterday due to my Dad’s dying and the cocksucker had actually called and complained about it. The door was open as per normal and I quietly walked to the kitchen counter and picked up the hundred dollar bill that was held down by a beer bottle and dropped a half ounce of weed down. I could hear Dave snoring in the back bedroom – snoring must run in their family. Going over to the coffeemaker I opened the bottle in my pocket and poured it into the water reservoir. Dave would never miss drinking his coffee – he was both a marijuana and caffeine freak – he always babbled on about opening a combination Starbucks and head shop if weed was ever legalized. Closing the door, I headed for work.
At the required pre-shift muster before my shift started I felt like I was shaking like a dog shitting a peach pit. When the watch lieutenant approached me I had about dropped in my tracks – I thought for sure that the feds had contacted the prison by now about everything they had told me and I would be getting placed on suspension pending an investigation – but all he did was express his sympathies about my Dad dying.
I walked on to the prison yard. My duties consisted of the monitoring the yard activities of the inmates until dusk and then I spent the rest of the shift making security rounds through the six units of the facility. As I went about my duties the time seemed to crawl by.
Four hours into my shift the announcement came over the radio. The voice was filled with both disgust and resignation.
"Anyone interested in OT on the midnight shift call the watch lieutenant." Staff calling in sick was a constant and ran rampant through the prison during the summer months like the flu.
I picked up the phone in the guard shack and placed the call.
"Zigstrom here, Lieutenant. I'd like the OT."
"You’re in luck then, Ziggy. Your future brother in law called in with a case of the blasters. Said he could he shit through a screen door. You can work his unit."
There was at least one officer calling in sick a night but I had to be sure tonight. I had just bought some insurance with my stop at the drugstore and at Dave’s house.
All inmates were locked down in single man cells after ten in the evening. The midnight officer spent his shift in a security bubble, monitoring security cameras and listening to inmates bitch when they paged the officer on the intercom in their cell. Every half hour the officer had to call in to master control to report his status and on hour intervals a roving officer would enter the unit and do a security round.
After my normal shift ended, I entered Oaks unit to relieve the two officers on duty. Day and evening shifts had two officers. Since the inmates were locked down at night there was only need for one on that shift. After briefing me, the two officers departed the unit. After my initial round of the unit I checked the outdoor cameras, there were no officers moving about. Taking my knife, I dug the point into the telephone cord to expose the wires. I pulled out a wire and sliced it in half. Dialing master control, I held the wires together, and when the control officer answered I began to speak while flicking the ends of the wire together.
Control stated his message was garbled. The exact words were “What the fuck is wrong with your phone?”
I got on my radio, turned to the alternate channel normally used for calling in emergencies and reported that my phone was on the blink and I would do my half hour check in calls by radio.
Master control copied.
I waited until the roving officer came through and completed his round, and after radioing in to control, stepped out of the bubble, unlocked the back door of the unit, and snuck out onto the darkened and deserted yard.
Staying in the shadows I walked quickly to the medical building, all medical staff left the prison after ten o’clock in the evening, leaving one nurse on call who had an office on the top floor and who normally spent the majority of her shift either watching television or cat napping since very medical emergencies seemed to pop up in the middle of the night. Entering the ground floor of the building using my yard master key, I walked quietly down the hallway and opened the locked door leading to the basement steps, walked the short flight of stairs down and then entered the records archives room using the same master key. There were hundreds of old medical records lining the walls along with seven locked heavy metal file cabinets. The whole place smelled of mold and mice piss and was covered in dust.
Popping my Dad's key in the first one. Wrong file cabinet.
Number two. Same result.
"You bastard! This better not be one of your sick jokes," I whispered and whimpered frantically.
Number three. Same as the first two. What the fuck!
"Shit!" I whisper screamed out.
Number four. The key didn't even fit in that son of a bitch.
I looked frantically at my watch. Holy fuck! Almost thirty minutes had passed. Keying my radio, I called in.
“Zigstrom. All secure on Oaks unit."
"Control copies, all secure on Oaks unit.”
I thought I was going to have a heart attack or a stroke! Whichever one came first.
Number five. Nothing! I jiggled it madly!
"I hope you rot in hell you son of a bitch!"
Number six. The key stuck for a second and then slid in. The lock popped open with a loud crack.
HOW COME HEINEKEN TASTES BETTER HERE THAN IN THE STATES?
"Another Heineken, sir?"
I looked up from the notebook I was reading from and smiled at the waitress.
"Please." I checked out her skin tight jeans as she walked away. Man, what an incredible ass! Jesus Christ, what a great place! I turned back to my reading.
My Dad may have been reprimanded by his employers for poor record keeping – and obviously with good reason - but his personal business was accounted for in great detail The notebook – which should have had the words BLACKMAIL spelled out on the cover - that I was reading was a running account of his nefarious activities. Names, dates, phone numbers, addresses, cash received, amounts of cocaine dealt out, cash that was paid out in bribes to state officials, everything – it was all in here in this dusty old notebook that I found underneath the knapsack with a 118 grand in large bills in it, along with a Colt .45 military issue and twenty-five grams of pure blow.
I had handed over the coke, the pistol, and twenty thousand of the cash in a gym bag to Uncle Cal Thompson as we stood in front of the bar at the Minneapolis airport. In exchange, Cal handed over a manila envelope which contained a plane ticket, a passport, and various other forms of identification – none in my given name but which all had a current photo of me. The photograph was a headshot of me sitting in the front seat of Cal’s pickup that had been cropped down to size. The photo was taken on the day that Cal had dropped me off at my Dad’s nursing home after our long drive back to Minnesota and I looked like refried shit. I had been so fucking tired and disoriented after that drive that I hadn’t even questioned the reasoning of the taking of the picture and hadn’t even remembered it being taking until now.
“Can I ask you a couple of questions before you leave?” I asked Cal as I watched his eyes dart around the terminal. I knew he wasn’t going to stay here long. His long ponytail was tucked underneath a ball cap and he was wearing a blue sweatshirt with matching sweatpants. His lizard skin boots had been replaced with a pair of New Balance running shoes.
He tucked the gym bag under his arm and smiled. “Sorry, kid, but I don’t have the time for twenty questions so let me just tell you this real quick and then I have to get the hell out of here. Your Dad, my brother, forget that half brother shit, and I were young and stupid and sold some speed to an undercover cop. Your father was smart, he had a career ahead of him, he’d already been accepted to college, so I took the fall, just like your buddy Miller shoulder have done with that weed you sent from Hawaii. I don’t regret a thing but your Daddy could never let that go and always felt he owed me something but he didn’t. We all make our choices in how to live life, we can’t blame how it turns out on anybody else, it’s our choice, just fucking live with it is how I’ve always felt. So you just go on now and try to find that girl of yours and if you do find her don’t ever let her go again. Find yourself a job and a nice house and settle in and have a nice quiet life. Forget all this shit. You rarely get a second chance in life. You’ve been blessed as the religious nutcases would say.”
“Do you think we’ll ever see each other again? I mean this is fucking weird. A day ago I didn’t know that I had any relatives at all and then you pop up out of nowhere, and now that I do have an uncle, a day later I realize that I may never see you again. And to tell you the truth, it’s pretty fucking cool knowing that you have an uncle that’s a former hit man.”
Cal gave a low chuckle. “Tell you what, soon as you get settled in, maybe I’ll look you up someday and we’ll have a nice visit and I’ll tell you everything you want to know. Shit, I have to see in person if that Lita is as hot in the flesh as she is in her pictures. Now I have to get the hell out of here before the federales show up.”
We shook hands and as he started to walk away he suddenly stopped and turned around. “You did good, kid. Your old man would have been proud. You must have nerves of steel for what you pulled off inside that prison. Like fucking Superman. Just don’t make it a habit, that kinda shit can get downright addicting. I think it must run in our family.” Cal Thompson, my old Uncle Cal as I like to call him, turned and strolled down the terminal with a gym bag full of coke, cash, and a fucking handgun, acting like he owned the place.
The waitress set my cold beer in front of me.
"Tell me, sweetheart. How do I find the red light district?"
The waitress giggled and pointed down a side street. "Cross three canals and take a left right after the Bulldog bar. You'll see where it starts." Goddamn, her accent about drove me crazy.
I slid Steve Earle’s El Corazon into my CD player, drained my beer, dropped a nice tip on the table for the waitress, picked up my knapsack, and headed down the street. I skipped over the other tunes to Fort Worth Blues.
That song was really starting to grow on me. It’s funny how things can change in life.
There's a full moon over Galway Bay tonight
Silver light over green and blue
And every place I travel through, I find
Some kinda sign that you've been through
But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
And London never fails to leave me blue
Paris never was my kinda town
So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues
SCOTT L. ANDERSON has worked on the decks of ships as a sailor, worked as a longshoreman on the docks of Los Angeles harbor, walked the yard as a prison guard, and wrestled with lunatics during a stint as an attendant at a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane. His work has been featured in publications such as Suspect Thoughts, Plots with Guns, The M.A.G., Nefarious, and Loompanics, LTD. His novels, Snorting The Devil’s Dandruff and Screaming Batfish Blues, have been downloaded and sold without his permission on Ebay. Batfish for a time was available for a short time on some weird Amazon.com-like company in Brazil, also without his permission. The article Rape In Prison was originally published by Loompanics, LTD, and has been downloaded tens of thousands of times and was referenced in the trade publication The Prison Journal, September 2007, Volume 87, No. 3
ALSO BY SCOTT L. ANDERSON
Snorting The Devil’s Dandruff
Screaming Batfish Blues
Tales from the Blue Reptile
Rape in Prison
(Just Google it, you’ll find it)
A Dead Rose in a Pineapple Graveyard
Scott can be contacted at:
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