Ninety days later, I'm in a court room. I’m wearing an orange jumpsuit, hands cuffed behind my back. I stand before a judge giving my testimony.
The jury and onlookers in the courtroom gasp audibly.
Brickner is sitting in the audience. He gives me a grin and a nod in support.
“…I stole a car outside of a hockey arena and left it in a ditch on the third concession after I crashed it. I falsely collected money, claiming to represent a children’s charity on several occasions, I stole hotdogs from Sonny’s food cart,” I confessed. “I plead guilty in these crimes your Honor, because I am guilty. My actions were selfish and immature and cost people a lot of heartache, not to mention lives. I am not asking for any leniency or favors from the court. I intend to serve the full amount of time as you see fit.”
Brickner comes to visit me later. He's escorted to the holding cell that I'll occupy until I'm loaded on a bus and relocated to my permanent cell.
“You did a stand-up thing kid. That means something,” he says. “You’re going to be taken in and processed. You’re going to live in a cell. You’ll be allowed time to exercise twice a day. I have some friends inside I know I can trust. They’ll look the other way if you do what you have to do to defend yourself. Especially once word gets out that you crossed Del Sarto. You keep your nose clean and head low…and with good behavior and the fact that you helped bust a crime family, you’ll only serve a couple years. It’s only a matter of days before your old man is freed. He’ll be waiting for you when you get out.”
The first time that I walk out into the exercise yard with the other prisoners, one of them tries sneaking up behind me, grabbing my collar and throwing me against a wall. I belt him with a right fist in the gut, causing him to double over. I look up at the guard on duty. True to Brickner’s word, the guard looks at me, nods and then turns away. The rest of the inmates are too confused to help their friend. I kick the shit out of him until he stops groaning.
A few months into my sentence, Brickner reaches retirement. He goes stir crazy with no beat to work, so he soon joins the ranks of the prison guards. Something to help fill his days. It also lets him keep a direct eye out for me and gain allies on the staff.
Having the guards look the other way comes in real handy when I have to cripple a man for trying to sneak up on me in the food line and attack me with a sharpened tray edge. I press my foot into the side of his knee hard, causing him to scream out in agony when it folds sideways.
The constant struggle takes a physical toll. When I walk out of the prison thirty-two months after I entered, I look as if I've spent twice as long inside. Can't complain though, seeing as how my original sentence was five years.
My father is leaning on a car in the parking lot, grinning as I walk toward him.
A half hour later, I ask him to pull in at a greasy spoon diner, next to the bus station.
We take our seats and I enjoy ogling the firm behind of the waitress as she goes about her job taking orders. When she comes to our table, I order my first real burger, fries and coffee in nearly three years.
My dad looks at me from across the table and smiles.
“You did a good thing son,” he says.
He takes a sip of his Pepsi, and then looks at me suspiciously.
“So why are we at this diner, next to a bus stop? Are you planning on going somewhere?” he asks.
“Not me. WE,” I explain. “I had a friend hide something for me after I went in.”
We finish our meal and then I rifle around in the trunk of my dad's car looking for something useful. He’s a handy guy, always has some kind of tools. I find a garden spade and decide that it will do. I dash off to a secluded area behind the bus station and begin digging at the base of a fence pole. My father slowly strides up beside me, looking puzzled.
“I just hope it’s still here,” I say.
Seconds later, I hold up the duffle bag full of money, right where I had told Ashley to bury it, minus a modest sum I'd talked her into taking.
My father is wide-eyed with excitement.
“There’s a reason that they never found all of the money taken in the heist,” I explain. “We’re getting out of this city.”
We drive north on the busy highway, smiling as we pass the city limit sign.
Hours later, the highway is desolate, cutting through dense foliage, trees and wilderness.
We’re going to a place somewhere that no one knows us.
In the bright summer sun, my father and I sit at the water’s edge in Adirondack chairs, surrounded by trees, holding fishing poles.
The birds chirp. The fish jump. The lake sparkles. The log cabin behind us is completely silent.
Eight months later, the lake is frozen. Smoke slowly rises from the cabin’s chimney. I try to shake the chill from my bones as I walk in from the woodshed, having made sure that the dry logs are split for at least a few days in advance.
I carry an armload of wood and pause, seeing an unfamiliar silver sedan parked outside the cabin.
My blood runs cold. I reach for the knob, only to have it open before I can grip it. My father looks at me. I have a hard time reading his expression.
“You’ve got a visitor,” he says.
Mind reeling, I step into the room.
There at the table sits Ashley. She grabs a wrapped present sitting on top of the table and lifts it toward me.
“Happy family day!” she says.
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