The Great Escape

This post is written for the Indifiction Workshop. The Plot on which the story is based is by Sandeep Nair.

You can read the complete post here too.


As a child I had heard stories from my mother about dungeons where monsters were chained and bound. Irony is, today I find myself being branded a monster and thrown away in a cell no better than a dungeon. It has been so long that I have been stuck here that I don’t even remember what life outside this hell hole was like! It has been so damn long!

The Arlington State Penitentiary stands overlooking a cliff on one end with the Arlington State Reserve on the other. It is as far away as could possibly be from any form of settlement. Sometimes I wonder if it is the prison or just the knowledge of its secluded existence that gets to us, the inmates! Well, I guess it was not wrong when my lawyer said to me “Bruce, the prison is going to get to you even before your execution does!”

Two days to the day when I get executed. Judy, I am sorry babe, I know I let you down! But Bruce loves you; you know that don’t you?

“Bruce!! Stop tossing and turning man!” suddenly shouted a visibly disgusted Esposito waking me up from my open eyed slumber.

“Sorry dude!” Esposito had been my cell mate ever since I stepped in here. He was not that bad a guy considering he was the kingpin of the Mexican Drug Cartel.

I haven’t been able to sleep a single night since Judy; since my Judy left me. I listen to Esposito snoring during nights. I can even hear the leaking of the taps in the nearby cells. The massive flashes of lights of the security posts outside keep frequenting my cell every two minutes; the sound of the waves crashing against the cliff and the sounds of supplies reaching the prison at dawn all repeat like clockwork every day. But truth be told the peaceful prison at night makes me a little uneasy for I can hear my inner thoughts which I would rather ignore. All I can see as I lay on my bed at night is her face up on the ceiling as if calling out to me. I can see her dimples on her left cheek and her luscious red lips. I can’t close my eyes for I see her lying there, for I see her lying there!

Oh Judy babe I wish things were different! I wish I could hold your hands and give you the life we never could lead.

<> 

“Judy where are you? I need some aspirin here.”

Darn my head hurts!

I have been practically living in Judy’s one bedroom apartment for a year now. It isn’t the ideal sort of love shack but is not that bad either for a hooker and her ex-addict boyfriend! I remember the first time I met her. She was standing at the exit of the City Bar near the phone booth. She wore a black skirt with her long sexy legs sparkling in the street light. With blond curly hair and a deep red lipstick, she seduced me just with her eyes. After that I never realized when or how I ended up at this very apartment that night and then every night after that.

Where is she?

She must be up to something. That is one of the things I love about her, always up to some mischief. We were never exclusive, she being a hooker nonetheless somehow we got drawn to each other. And today she wants to stop being one and I want to help her in that. Strange but true; she knows I have AIDs and still she loves me no less. We don’t judge each other. She is Judy to me while I am Bruce to her and that’s all there is to it. We are just two people madly in love!

Damn it’s hot in here. I should get her an AC this Christmas!

“Judy? Judy. Ok I see, I think somebody wants to play a naughty game. Well alright I am coming”

Wonder what my mischievous blond is up to now?

Ok so where do I start from. In the bathroom perhaps!

“Open up, I am coming in”

“One, Two, Three…Judy!”

Alright she isn’t here. Perhaps the Living room then!

“And here I come. Judy…. Judy!!!”

“Oh My God…Judy baby.. Judy look at me..Judy!! Judy!!!!!”

Is that a gun? Judy!!

<> 

“So what’s for dinner Judy”

“Same old, same old Bruce”

Pizza was our dinner every night, most of the nights! Judy was too lazy to cook while all I could dish up were some laughable omelettes. So off we went with our daily ritual of ordering pepperoni pizza to wash down with some beer. The doctors wanted me to be careful but then don’t they always! The only thing that bothered me was the effect of AIDS on Judy; so that was the only part of being cautious that I paid heed to.

“I had an exhausting day. The client was a hard ass. He just wouldn't stop” she said running her hands through her hair as we lay on bed.

“You can stop doing this Judy. Of course if you don’t want to that is. I will take care of everything. You can work in a restaurant or a diner babe. ”

“Bruce honey once a hooker, always a hooker. Who’s going to give me a job? It’s a small town, I can’t hide behind anything!” she looked towards me with her soulful eyes.

“We could move. We could go someplace new.” She looked so cute without her makeup just like a small girl full of innocence.

“Bruce where would we go and after you are… I mean after...”

“Yes you can say it after I die”

“Arghhh….No I mean if something happens to you what I would do alone! Here at least I have my friends. Of course friends who are prostitutes but still they are friends!” She looked worried and tired.

“Don’t worry we will work out something. All I know is if you don’t want to do this anymore; today was your last. Not again, not ever. Tomorrow will be a new day for us. Now I am starving! Do I need to go to Italy for pizza?” saying I winked at her. She burst out laughing.

“I’ll get it” saying she went to the kitchen to get the pizza.

It was so easy to make her laugh. She didn't want much and this was the first time she said she was tired of it all. I had to take her out of this puddle.

I can do anything for that smile of hers.

<> 

“You have the right to remain silent anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand these rights I have just read to you?” said the officer while holding me to the ground.

“I don’t understand what’s going on!”

I didn’t call the police. Who did and why are they arresting me?

“It’s a mistake I didn’t do anything. Plus you need to take her to the hospital.”

“Listen Officer somebody broke into the apartment and put a bullet through my girlfriend’s chest. You need to save her and then find that man and not me for crying out loud!”

“She is dead and you killed her. You are holding the gun man?” the officer looked at me condescendingly.
“It was lying there. Oh man!”

“Yes and you just happened to pick it up and ogle on it. We know your and her type. A hooker can never be anyone’s girl and your stash in the bedroom shows how sane you would have been when you did the act!” he retorted as if almost having made his mind against me. 

Who killed her? Why didn’t I hear anything? I lay there and somebody walked in and killed her. Damn It! I’m going to find out who it is and I am going to get him Babe!!

Judy lay on the living room floor in a pool of blood. Just when she was ready for a better life, she had to be killed so brutally! Still in her night gown she lay with pieces of broken glass around her. There was no sign of forced entry it must have been someone she knew. The windows were still closed so he couldn’t have come from there.

Was she cold when I touched her? No, no she was still warm which means it must have happened just before I woke up!

The keys are still there? How could someone have entered without the keys?

The officers seem to believe there was a bit of a scuffle before she was shot at. Of course they think it was I. We had such a good time last night.

Was I so damn high with booze that I didn’t realize that she was gone? But who would have? Who did she come across that she was murdered? How would I make the jury believe that it wasn’t I?

“It’s a mistake. You’ve got the wrong guy officer!”

“Then we shall find out. Let’s go.”

<> 

Six months back I walked into this hell hole of a prison after being incarcerated for Judy’s murder. I was sent here to await my execution. I still mourned for Judy and on top of that the conviction made me realize how helpless I was. I was a miserable man who didn’t even have the balls to find out who killed his girlfriend! And after being put on death row, I had lost even the will to live unto the fateful day. I had shouted and cried in the courts but nobody listened; I was branded the murderer from the moment the county Sheriff walked into the room where Judy lay dead. How could I, a former addict and an AIDS patient, fight alone against the system? Even if I did, even if I found out who killed Judy, I still couldn’t get her back! So I gave up all hope and just waited with baited breathe to die!

Prison is a hard place to be and the Arlington State Penitentiary wasn’t any different. There were the boys from the Mexican Drug Cartel who were dangerous and you would better be in their good books to lead an easy life in the prison. Being the cell mate of Esposito made it easier for me. I wasn’t part of their group but neither was I out of it. I shared a cell with Esposito and that earned me a free pass into their family.

All the meth in prison was supplied by Esposito and his men. A few years back another bloke from the rival Mexican Drug Family tried to take over this territory but was later found mysteriously dead in the prison workshop.

There were the blacks. Well you wouldn’t want to get into a fist fight with these chaps. With their tall build and orange uniforms, they looked scarier than the officers on duty. The whites and the blacks were two separate groups and even if someone wanted to bridge the divide, it was too sacred and dangerous to break. Fact of the matter was staying neutral wasn’t an option!

Every group had a clearly demarcated territory and a set of unwritten laws. It would be nothing short of fatal to cross those. The con men and the white collar criminals all were part of the dazzling prison society. There were those too who had the guards working for them.

Every prisoner was involved in some activity or the other. There were those assigned for laundry, those for cooking, cleaning and more. There were workshops where inmates would be involved in carpentry and black smithy. To get into one of these groups was not the decision of authorities alone for each had their ring leaders. If you would be put in a group against the leader’s wishes, it would be nothing short of a hell for you. Yes, if there was anything like murky underground world then the prison was a good prototype of it.
There were the notorious few, from whom it was always better to keep a distance. Out of those was Billy-the Brawler who was a gay ex-boxer. If there were fights in prison Billy had to be part of it in some way. He was the man behind every scuffle and tussle that took place there and hence his nick name. He was serving his time for an armed robbery. A dangerous man, he was one of those who were welcome in all groups within the prison but equally hated too in hushed tones.

I was part of the Prison Industries and so was Billy. I didn’t want to be near him for he reminded me of one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.

It was my third day in prison and first in the workshop of the Prison Industry. It was a gloomy day and I was not feeling any better either. It was just then that Billy walked up to me.

“So what’s you name new guy?” he asked.

“Bruce” I said as I looked towards him. Perhaps he was here for some sort of ragging I speculated; after all every other guy who had been in the prison for even a day more than me was doing the same. I was prepared for anything; some beatings perhaps or a forced fist fight.

“Come with me” he said with his eyes trying to hide an uneasy glint.

He took me towards the prison showers. The guard smirked and left the moment he saw us walk in. What happened next was something I dread to even think about to this day. He walked slowly towards me and took out a gun. I couldn’t fathom what was happening. He then put the gun in my mouth and told me to strip. I was aghast but what could I do? He took me under the shower and raped me. Even before I could make sense of it all, he was done with me and I was left aghast. I didn’t fight back and to this day I despise myself for not standing up to him. He laughed and I was full of bruises. I bled and he didn’t stop. He was like a mad man on rampage and I was the paralyzed victim.

I had lost the will to battle anything after my sentence. Who would I fight for and why? Perhaps all I wanted then and even now is to be punished in every way possible for not being able to save Judy and for not getting justice for her.

Billy was feared in prison and nobody would speak against him. The day he raped me and I lay bleeding and battered on the shower floor, even the prison guards and doctors ignored the obvious signs of rape.

Since that day even a look at Billy or just his mere presence has made me uncomfortable and nauseous. If there was anybody I was afraid of in prison it was him.
<> 
“Bruce, mate so it’s almost time. Just 40 odd hours!” said Esposito.

“Tell you the truth man I have grown fond of you. If there is one thing I know it is to gauge a person and you my man couldn’t have murdered your lady”

“That doesn’t matter Espo. My time is up and it’s fair. If it’s not the execution, it would have been the AIDS that would have killed me”

“Yes but if it was AIDS you would still have the time to find out who did this to Judy mate” said Esposito with steel intent in his eyes.

His eyes had the resolve that I should have had. But I didn’t feel that urge within me anymore. I just wanted this rough ride of life to end. With Judy gone, the sentencing and the rape I didn’t feel man enough to go out there and fight. Perhaps I had lost the battle even before it had begun. I let Judy’s murderer off the hook even before I made any attempt to find him. I was just a mere mass moving around, my soul was long gone. I didn’t have the will to even think about how my non-action was a sacrilege for the love I felt for Judy.

“I can’t do anything man. Let’s pretend for a second I wanted to but what could I do in 40 odd hours within the walls of this prison?” I blasted out at Esposito.

He was surprised for it was the first time in my time with him that I had dared to raise my voice at him. With a blank look in his eyes he came towards me, held my collar, bent towards my ears and said “If you are up for it you could have more than 40 hours outside the prison”.

“What?” I shouted in shock.

“Keep it down man! All I am saying is there is a way you could get out of here. Question is are you up for it?” he looked down at me as if to say it’s now or never mate!

“Yes, yes I want to know. Yes” these words just came out of me. I wasn’t even thinking. These words just came out as I could see Judy lying in a pool of blood infront of my eyes.

“Billy, he’s your man. He can get you out. They are planning an escape soon and they have even dug a tunnel. You could convince him, I could put in a word for you. But you need to act soon for you don’t have much time left” he said with the deadly cold look that he was known for.

“Are you also in the group?” I asked.

“No man, I will be out soon. I don’t need a tunnel to get out of here” he winked and left.

I should escape. I should, shouldn’t I?

<>

“Uhh Billy..I need to talk to you” I had somehow mustered up the courage to walk up to him and say these words. I was going to convince him to let me in on his team no matter what it took. I was going to do it!
He was in the middle of his lunch with his group members. It wasn’t the safest approach but then was there any when it came to one of the most notorious men in prison? He put down his spoon, wiped his face with his shirt and looked up towards me. At first he looked angry like a tiger waiting to pounce on me but then suddenly gave a wry smile.

He slowly walked towards me as my heart began to pound and I started to perspire like a pig. My orange jumpsuit was wet with my sweat in minutes as he came close. He put his hands on my shoulders and whispered in my ears “I think we need to give you a shower my friend”.

Those words stirred up a string of emotions within me. I felt nervous and had goose bumps all over my body. Billy began to laugh as he walked away but then looked back suddenly to say “And yes we could talk about anything you want to after that!”

As I went back to my station at the Prison Industry workshop Billy’s words kept coming back to my mind over and over again.

It’s just a small price to pay. It’s for Judy. I will walk upto Billy soon and I will give him what he wants.

It was as if whatever direction I chose eventually led me to a hell hole, just of different kind every time. A deliberate propaganda of destiny against me seemed to be working some unseen spell at every turn life took for me. It just seemed that there was no easy way out!

I have to do it. I have to do it for Judy!

It was a little after lunch when I sat at the field trying to muster up the courage to talk to Billy again. My heart was beating faster than usual but I kept repeating just one word in my mind ‘Judy’.

Suddenly I felt someone sit beside me. I turned and it was Billy. He sat looking towards the boundary wall that overlooked the field. I guess it was time.

Gathering the remaining shreds of courage within me I said to him “I am ready; let’s go but before that I want you to promise me something. I want in on your escape plan tonight”

Without looking at me Billy asked “And why would I do that?”

“Please Billy, I need to do something. My girl, Judy, I didn’t kill her. I couldn’t for I loved her. She was a hooker and I an AIDS inflicted ex-addict I agree, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t love each other. I have to find out who did this and time is running out. You have to understand”

“And why would I understand?” he said. There was something strange about his demeanour. He wasn’t the condescending self that I had just met. There was an ease I felt around him suddenly. He was strangely calm and that gave me the confidence to speak.

“I know you have AIDS too. You don’t have much time left just like me but you are still escaping which means there is something important for you too, some unfinished business. I do too and I want you to help me do the same.”

He turned towards me with tears in his eyes. It was a different Billy.

“A six year old has AIDS, stage IV, and she is my daughter. She is at that stage because of me; she is paying for my mistakes. I need to be with her when she...” and he wept like a baby.

I didn’t have words for him. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do or say. Suddenly he spoke again “I know I have been a bad ass all through my life. I have to be this tough guy all the time. But don’t worry you don’t have to do anything. You’ll be out before this time tomorrow”

We looked at each other. There was sincerity in his eyes and pain too. For the first time I felt good about something in months.

Judy I’ll find out who took you away and then I will come to you!

This is the last night I’ll spend here.

“Espo I spoke to Billy and I’m going man. I’m going to get justice for Judy.”

“That’s swell Bruce. I’ll see you outside very soon bro. Go get some sleep; it will be a long time before you can sleep again!”

<> 

“Espo you aren’t asleep?”

“I just couldn’t Billy”

“Bruce, wake up man. It’s time to go. Is he asleep Espo?”

“He was up all night but fell asleep an hour back. Bruce!”

“Oh push him a little hard Espo...we don’t have time!”

“He’s not moving or breathing Billy!!!”

“Check his pulse Espo”

“He’s gone man. He’s gone. You go ahead Billy I’ll call it in after you are safely out”

“But he wanted to escape man. He wanted to bring justice for his girl Espo!”

“Who said life was fair Billy? But for the quandaries of life we wouldn’t be in here, would we?”

<> 

I stood there looking at a forlorn Espo and equally despondent Billy. There they were around my lifeless body. Fate had played its cruel cards again on me. I had lost again.

Just then I saw Judy appear from nowhere. She held my hand, smiled and said “This is our Great Escape Bruce. Come with me sweetheart for our happy ending”






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