Go to all chapters of "Medium Security".
"Ron, I need to speak with you," said Julie. "Right now."
Ron was sitting at his desk, frowning over a stack of legal briefs and forms. He was swamped with work from Stanton Correctional, which he was trying to do on top of the other cases on which he was consulting for the Prisoners' Legal Defense. Stanton wasn't the only prison in Western Pennsylvania that needed legal services, and besides the various county lock-ups that needed monitoring, cases pending, and following up on cases that had already been through the courts, Ron felt that he didn't know whether he was coming or going half the time.
And then there was Brian. Ron had tried to get that asshole Horvath to okay a visit with his 'client' in the prison hospital, but the warden was stonewalling him at every turn. Even the threat of a few well-chosen candid snapshots of Horvath and a certain Mrs. Novotny released to some people on the Board of Prisons hadn't had any impact.
"Go ahead and do it, Rosenblum," Horvath had retorted, calling Ron's bluff. "If they get rid of me and put in someone else, just see how far you get in working your 'charms' on a new warden. A warden who doesn't know YOU and doesn't know Kinney. You think you'll get special favors from HIM? Like that Family Visit? If you play your cards right, I might slip it through quietly. But if you screw me over, you think some new warden is going to approve Conjugal Visits for two guys? Think again, Ronnie!"
And Ron did think again. Horvath was right. Yes, he was a cretin, but he was a known cretin. Horvath had done Ron favors in the past, but he didn't like being pushed. So Ron had no choice but to back off -- for now. As frustrating as that was.
"What's up, Julie?"
"This." The woman dropped a folder on his desk. Ron opened it. It was a report from an internal FBI source. Ron wasn't sure how Julie got some of her information, but he was impressed with what she sometimes came up with. Ron had a feeling that she was fucking someone in or very close to the FBI. Good for her, he thought. Use what you have.
Ron scanned the top report and felt his gut clench as he read.
"Is this on the level?" he asked.
Julie nodded. "Completely." Then she smiled. "This could impact your boy."
"Impact him?" Ron cried. "It could mean a deal with the prosecutor! It could mean...." He stopped. Ron didn't want to think about what it might mean.
Because the report was from an FBI informant about the movements of a certain Kirk Bradley, a.k.a. Russell Coe, a.k.a. Glenn FitzPatrick. One of the fugitive Penn State Bombers from 1968. The very bastard who had suckered Brian into their radical anti-war cell and then left him holding the bag after they torched that building. And left him serving a 20-year-to-life sentence. That bastard.
"How old is this report?" asked Ron. He could feel the cold sweat breaking out on the back of his neck.
Julie sighed. "That's the only thing. The information is a year old. However, it's the first solid lead that there's been in this case since those guys went underground in '68. Apparently this Kirk Bradley was living under the name Russell Coe out in Portland, Oregon. He was married and his wife took the kids and split. She told someone she knew that her husband was on the lam and she was sick of moving around and living in fear."
"Sounds like the ex-wife might be willing to give this guy up!" said Ron, excitedly.
"Maybe," said Julie. "Except when they came to question her, she clammed up. And by that time Bradley or Coe or whoever he is had already taken off. He hasn't been spotted since, but the Feds are keeping an eye on the wife and kids. You never know, Ron, he might try to see them again when he thinks the heat is off."
"Are the Feds pursuing this lead? What have they done in the past year?"
Julie shrugged. "Not much, it seems. Former campus radicals aren't high on their priority list."
Ron stood up. "But they are fucking Number One on MY priority list! Especially THIS former campus radical! Shit!" Ron began pacing back and forth. "We need a good private investigator to get on this right away. The Feds aren't going after this Kirk Bradley unless they get a fucking kick in the pants! So we are going to have to do it."
"It's going to cost some money, Ron," Julie warned. "And even then there's no guarantee that it will help Brian."
"But it's something," said Ron. "That's better than what we had before -- which was bupkis! This is at least a lead. Proof that this bastard is still alive. And if he's alive he can be found. And he WILL tell the truth about what happened -- if I have to twist his dick off to get him to do it!"
Julie laughed. "Why Ron! You sweet talker, you!"
But Ron wasn't smiling. "If it will get Brian out of Stanton I'll do anything, Julie. And I'm not kidding." He stared directly at the woman in a way that gave her a chill. "Anything. Never forget that. Now start looking into an investigator. And I want one with no scruples whatsoever. One who will take no prisoners -- literally."
"If you say so, Ron," said Julie, backing out of the room.
She left Ron Rosenblum sitting at his desk, staring intently at the folder, his face set and determined. And his resolute mind working on how he was going to get Brian out of prison -- finally.
"Hey, Mom," said Justin, quietly. He sat down across from his mother in the Visitors' Galley.
"Hello, Justin," Jennifer replied tentatively. She reached her hand out over the table to take her son's, but he sat back with his arms crossed and his face blank. "Justin, promise me that you aren't going to run away from me today."
Justin sighed. "I won't... if YOU promise not to say anything stupid about Brian."
Jennifer swallowed. Ron had warned her that antagonizing her son about his cellmate would only make him even more defensive, especially since the man had been wounded defending him. And now Brian was back in Stanton. And Justin was more obsessed with him than ever before.
"I promise, darling," she said. "So, how is Brian? Is he... feeling better?"
"He's healing, Mom," Justin answered. "But it will take a long time before he's back to normal. It isn't like he had the flu or something. Brian was stabbed! He was almost killed, Mom!"
"Yes, I know, honey," said Jennifer. "And I'm sorry."
"Are you, Mom?" Justin asked. "Are you really sorry?"
"Of course I am! I... I know that this... this Brian is important to you." Jennifer paused, trying to think of what exactly to say. "I know that you... you love him." Jennifer could barely get the word out.
"At least you acknowledge that fact," Justin replied. Justin closed his eyes. "I know it's hard for you to admit that I'm gay, Mom. And it's even harder for you to understand my relationship with Brian. You think it has to do with me being in prison and being traumatized or some shit like that. But it's a lot more, Mom. Even if I were out of the Quad and back home and going to the Institute of Fine Art like I had originally planned, I would still be gay. I've always been gay. And it has nothing to do with anything you did or Dad did or anybody did! It's the way I am!"
"I know that, honey," said Jennifer, trying to steady her voice. "It's only that... that everything has happened so quickly, Justin! Your arrest and then the trial. And then... you in prison. It's put a strain on me and on the whole family."
"What about the slight strain on ME, Mom?" Justin said, his voice on edge. "What about THAT? What about the... the things that have happened to me in here? What about ME seeing Brian almost killed right in front of me? I think that's a lot more important that the 'strain' you guys feel when people gossip about you at the country club."
"I don't mean to downplay what you've gone through, Justin! I don't mean to do that at all!" Jennifer looked down at her hands. She was twisting her wedding ring back and forth. "Justin, I want you to hear it from me first... but your father and I are getting a divorce."
Justin held his breath. He'd been afraid of this. He had watched his parents turn against each other more and more in the months since his arrest. And he could only imagine what his father had to say about his homosexuality. That he hated what Justin was. The father who refused to come and visit him. Who refused even to speak with him on the phone. His father hated him now. Hated the fag. Justin felt it. But he couldn't hate his dad. He just couldn't. And he couldn't hate his mom, either, no matter how stupid she acted. No matter how much she didn't understand him. Or his relationship with Brian.
"I'm sorry, Mom," said Justin, looking away. "It's all my fault. This never would have happened if I hadn't been so fucking stupid! If I hadn't let myself get arrested." Justin's voice dropped to a whisper. "And if I wasn't a queer. That's the main thing, isn't it, Mom?" He looked his mother in the eyes. "Isn't it?"
Jennifer cringed. "N..No, honey. That isn't the reason. It isn't your fault! It isn't about you!"
"But it IS! I know it is!" Justin sniffed. "Don't try to make me feel better. I know Dad hates me. And now I've fucked things up between the two of you. I've ruined our family!"
"No!" said Jennifer, firmly. "You haven't! Look at me, Justin! Please?"
Justin shook his head. "I'm so fucking sorry!"
Jennifer didn't know what to say to her son. She couldn't tell him the truth. Not about her and Ron. She just couldn't! But she also couldn't let Justin think that he was to blame to the bitter rift between her and Craig. She thought about the confrontations and the accusations. The claims and counter-claims traded by their lawyers. It was an ugly situation and getting uglier. Craig still refused to move out of the house and it was like a war zone there.
And then there was Ron. He was so busy lately. So many cases taking up so much of his time. Even when they were together he was preoccupied. That was about Brian, too. About Brian's case. Jennifer was always asking about Justin's case, but things were at a stand-still with it. It was that damn prosecutor, Jim Stockwell. He was throwing up roadblocks right and left. He didn't want any of his convictions overturned when he was running for the Republican mayoral nomination as a strict law-and-order candidate. Ron had reminded Jenn how that wouldn't look good to Stockwell's conservative constituency. It was so frustrating! And so unfair!
"Justin, please don't blame yourself for this!" Jennifer begged. "It isn't about you or anything you've done. It's about your father and me. About how we... we can't get along anymore."
Justin shook his head. "Is it about you fucking Brian's old cellmate? Is it about you and Ron? I would think that Dad wouldn't be too happy about that, either."
Jennifer felt herself trembling. "Ron and I are going to be married, honey. We are -- as soon as he can divorce his wife."
Justin stared at her -- and then he laughed. "Divorce his wife? Did Ron tell you that, Mom? Did he?" Justin's face was incredulous.
"Well...." Jennifer hesitated. They hadn't discussed it fully, but Ron had alluded to their future. To what would happen once she was free. About how they would be together then. "Yes, we've talked about it."
"I don't believe you, Mom," said Justin, coolly. "Sorry to burst your bubble, but Ron is lying if he told you that." Justin pressed his full lips together, wondering at his mother's gullibility. "The truth is that the only way in hell he'll ever divorce his wife is if they made it legal for a guy to marry another guy!"
"Justin!" cried Jennifer. "Don't be ridiculous!"
"No, Mom," Justin replied. "Don't YOU be ridiculous! Because if they made marriage for queers legal tomorrow in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Ron would divorce his wife so fast her head would spin. And then he'd be at the door of Stanton with flowers and a ring -- for Brian! Yes, Mom! That's who Ron really wants! Not YOU!"
"Stop saying those things, Justin! That isn't the truth!" Jennifer insisted. But she was beginning to sweat. It was hot and stuffy in the Visitors' Gallery. She was feeling faint in the heat.
"But it IS true, Mom," said Justin. His face was once again a blank. "The only problem with Ron's perfect little scenario is that if Ron showed up with those flowers and that ring and a romantic proposal, Brian would laugh in his face! Because he loves ME! That's the truth, Mom! Deal with it."
Jennifer sat for a few minutes, her heart pounding and the sweat pouring down the back of her neck. She looked at Justin's face and he looked like a stranger. Not her beautiful, innocent boy, but a strange man whose mind she didn't understand. And maybe she never would understand.
"So," Jennifer continued, her voice shaking. "How are your classes, honey?"
Justin stomped into the main ward and slammed down a tin of chocolate chip cookies onto the desk.
"Anyone who wants these can have them!" he stated.
Em poked his head out of the annex room. "We aren't using our 'inside voice' today, are we?" said Em sharply.
Justin paused. "Sorry, Em." He looked around at the men in the ward. Two were quietly playing cards, but the others were lying in their beds listlessly. "I'm sorry, guys. I didn't mean to be so loud."
Justin picked up the tin and walked around to each bed, offering the cookies to the sick men. Then he carried the remainder into the annex.
"Jesus, that must have been some great visit with your mom," Brian commented. He was out of bed and sitting on the chair, reading his newest copy of the 'New Yorker.'
Justin handed Brian the cookie tin and Brian took it, raising an eyebrow. He reached in and tried one of the cookies. Then he offered one to Em.
"A little dry," said Em. "But they have a lot of chips in them!"
"Jane's cookies are always a little dry. They have been for the past 9 years," said Brian. "I told Ron to get her to put a little more shortening in them, but I guess she's too set in her ways."
"How do you know these are from Ron?" asked Justin.
Brian laughed. "Who else? Your mother has never brought you cookies before. Does she even make cookies? Besides, these are the same tins that Jane has always used." Brian rummaged through the tin. "No peanut butter? You'd think we'd get a little variation."
"My Great-Aunt Lula used to have a good recipe for oatmeal cookies!" exclaimed Em.
"There you go!" said Brian. "Write it down and we'll send it along to them. Maybe Ron and Jane and your mom can all get together and make enough cookies for the whole tier for the next Visiting Day."
Justin sat down on the bed and kicked off his shoes. "I'm glad you guys think this is so fucking amusing!" He leaned back against the pillow and turned his face away.
Brian threw Emmett a pointed look and Em backed out of the annex quietly, shutting the door. He took the tin of cookies with him.
Brian put down his magazine and stood up slowly. The muscles in his stomach and left side were still weak and making sudden movements could be painful. Brian made a grunting sound as he got to his feet, causing Justin to sit up.
"Let me help you!" he said, slipping off the bed.
"I can do it!" Brian insisted. "I'm not a fucking old woman!"
"You want to get back into bed?" asked Justin.
"I guess so," Brian mumbled. "Fuck."
He wanted to get out of that room, out of the ward, so very badly. He could see the sun shining outside and feel the breeze coming in through the window. He wanted to run around the track about a hundred times and forget everything as the wind blew his hair back and his feet felt the crunch of the gravel. But the reality was that Brian could barely inch his way across the ward without the assistance of Justin and Emmett.
Dr. Caputo kept telling Brian what great progress he was making, but it didn't feel like progress. Instead, it felt like he would never be the same again. That he was like an old man before his time, doomed to sit in one spot and rot until he actually was old. Even his arms had lost their tone and Brian knew from the looking in the bathroom mirror while shaving that his face was thin and drawn.
Justin pulled back the sheet and eased Brian into the bed. It was hot in the Hospital Wing and Brian was wearing his gray boxers and a plain tee shirt. Justin noticed how thin his legs looked. He'd have to ask Ben if there were some weights that would be good for Brian to use to help regain his muscles. Ben knew all about that sort of thing and Dr. Caputo would probably okay it. In a regular hospital they would have a physical therapist work with Brian every day until his strength came back, but Stanton didn't have the money for such luxuries for inmates. The prisoners had to make due with whatever was there -- the bed, the chair, Justin's shoulder for Brian to lean on.
"After dinner do you want to sit outside?" Justin suggested. There was a small outside area off the Hospital Wing that Em and the other orderlies and nurses referred to as the 'Garden.' It was a square of shriveled grass surrounded by a chain-link fence where the patients could sit in the sun or the shade -- depending on the time of day -- and get some air away from the noise of the main Yard. Dr. Caputo had actually brought a geranium in an old clay pot and set it a corner there, saying that a garden needed at least one flower. Emmett watered the flower carefully every morning, but it still looked slightly dusty.
"Sure," said Brian. "I think I can make it out there." Brian began calculating how much energy it would take for him to maneuver himself from the annex room to the Garden.
Justin hesitated. "I was thinking that I could push you -- in the chair."
Brian winced. He hated being moved around in the wheelchair. "I can walk," he stated flatly.
"Listen, Sunshine, if I can't walk outside 10 steps, then how am I ever going to be able to walk up to the tier?" said Brian, bleakly. "I'll be stuck in here for the rest of my term. You might as well just wheel me over, dump me in the geriatric ward, and fucking forget about me there."
"It's only that I don't want you to over-do it, Brian!" Justin countered. He stared at his lover with concern. Some days it seemed that the idleness of the Hospital and the lack of physical activity was making Brian more and more depressed. Justin climbed up next to Brian on the narrow bed and leaned his head on Brian's shoulder. "I'll help you walk out to the Garden. You're right -- you don't need a wheelchair."
"Damn straight I don't need it!" Brian snapped. But then he sighed and put his arm around Justin, stroking his hair. "I only want to get back up on the tier. And back to the office. Back to my old routine."
"I know," Justin whispered.
Brian was only able to do a small amount of his legal work and the cases were backing up. Julie, the woman from the Prisoners' Legal Defense, had been sending one of their paralegals twice a week to try and clear some of the cases, but the guy could only stay for a few hours and he didn't understand the inmates or their cases the way Brian did. Besides, the other prisoners didn't trust some outsider who they didn't know. Brian was one of them and they had faith in him, not some punk just out of college who acted like he was scared shitless just to be inside the Quad.
"How does your side feel?" Justin asked. He knew that the wound still hurt Brian. Justin helped Em with the changing the dressing every day, and the scar was still red and angry-looking. In the hot weather Brian's sweat inflamed it and Justin knew that it often kept Brian from sleeping at night. Justin wasn't allowed to sleep in the annex -- he had to return to his tier for evening head count at 10:00 -- but Justin always knew when Brian had had a bad night. His eyes were red and he ate less than usual. And his mood was much gloomier.
"Okay," Brian lied. "How could I not be okay when I'm so well taken care of?"
"You'll be back home before you know it!" Justin asserted.
Home, Justin thought. It was sad that for Brian his cell was the only home he had. His parents didn't write or visit, so wherever he had lived before Brian had gone away to Penn State certainly wasn't his home anymore. No, it was the East Wing, third tier, cell E-320.
And that was Justin's home now, too. Even if Justin got out tomorrow, his homophobic father wouldn't let him go home. He didn't want a fag ex-con son around the house. And his mom -- what if she really DID marry Ron? Justin couldn't see himself living with his mother and a new husband who was also his lover's ex-boyfriend!
No, the only thing that would work was for Brian and him to find their own place. To live together. Justin thought about Brian's manuscript in the hands of Amy Carver's friend. And then with a publisher. It would be a huge bestseller! Brian would be exonerated and released! Then Justin would get paroled! They WOULD get their own place, just the two of them! Somewhere in the country, where it was green and cool. Justin could be an artist and Brian... Brian could do anything he wanted to! They'd both be free to decide their own Fates. They'd be free.
"What are you smiling about?" Brian asked, nudging Justin.
"Nothing," Justin murmured. "I'm only thinking about something beautiful."
"Amy?" said the voice on the phone.
"Will!" Amy Carver exclaimed. "I can't talk very long. I'm getting ready to go over to Stanton to teach my class."
"At the prison?" asked Will Foxe. "Good! That's exactly what I wanted to speak with you about. Geoffrey Collins called me today from New York. He got your prisoner's manuscript to Milt Kirchner."
Amy took a deep breath. "Milton Kirchner, the editor at the 'New Yorker'? Oh, Will! That's fabulous news!" Amy knew that Kirchner had edited many of the most famous non-fiction pieces that had appeared in the magazine over the years, including works by Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and John Hersey.
"Now, Geoff isn't promising anything, but he told me that Kirchner is extremely interested in this manuscript. He also told Geoff that he thinks that with some work it could not only be publishable, but profitable. Geoff thinks it's got all the elements to make it fly. It's a true crime story and those are always big sellers. And it's got the Vietnam and anti-war element, which gives it some political cache. And it's got a lot of sex and sensational details about shit that goes on in prison. I mean, who knows about any of this stuff, Amy? I certainly didn't!" Will paused. "Are you sure that what this Kinney has written is on the level? This stuff about male prostitution and drug dealing inside the prison and all of that?"
"Will, some of the other boys in my class have definitely confirmed that it goes on. Some of the men inside dress in women's clothes -- I've seen them! There's a boy in my class who's in for stealing, but he's also done time for prostitution. And he wears make-up and lives with some macho convict! Even the boys who don't look effeminate have big, butch boyfriends. It's just a fact of life not only in Stanton, but in all of the prisons, Will. Brian's manuscript is telling you exactly what happened to him. Justin assured me that it's all true."
"Who is Justin?" Will Foxe asked.
"Brian Kinney's cellmate. The one who gave me the pages," Amy explained. "And also Kinney's punk -- that means his boyfriend."
"Yes, I remember that from reading the manuscript," Will said. "Prison sounds like a real lively place. Kind of like Studio 54, but without Liza Minnelli."
"That's not very funny," Amy returned. Will was a good writer, but he could be an asshole sometimes. He considered himself a real ladies' man, so she had wondered how he would react to the graphic homosexual content in Brian's manuscript.
"I'm sorry," Will apologized. "It's just that it's hard to read a lot of those scenes, Amy. I mean, I don't mind sex scenes, but that stuff with that motorcycle gang... it's disgusting!"
"It's true, Will," Amy said. "It's not gratuitous, it's simply honest. If people are shocked by what happened to Brian, then they need to have their eyes opened. Because things like that are happening in prison every day. Happening to people I know personally. Some of them are practically children." Amy thought about Justin and Wesley and the other boys in her class and she knew that Brian Kinney's story was only the tip of the iceberg of sexual abuse and exploitation that happened at Stanton, not to mention other prisons far worse.
Will sniffed. "If Milt Kirchner decides to publish excerpts of this manuscript, he may want to... um... edit some of the language and descriptions. The 'New Yorker' has certain standards and that kind of... of homosexual stuff isn't exactly their usual fare."
"Maybe that's all the more reason why they SHOULD publish it, language and descriptions of so-called 'disgusting' acts notwithstanding," Amy challenged. "Or is the famous Milt Kirchner afraid of upsetting his magazine's 'tasteful and sophisticated' readership? The 'New Yorker' is supposed to be on the cutting edge, Will. They published Hersey's 'Hiroshima' and Capote's 'In Cold Blood' after all. Or have they lost their stomach these days?"
"Hell, no, Amy!" replied Will. "I'm just telling you my own feelings about some of the more difficult scenes. But that's a decision that Milt Kirchner will have to make -- IF he takes the manuscript. But you know that there are still a lot of legal issues involved. The facts will have to be checked and the manuscript vetted with the magazine's legal department. They don't want to get sued by anyone."
"I understand that," said Amy. "I'm sure that names can be changed if that's necessary. As far as I know all the names in there now are real. Brian wasn't thinking about getting sued when he wrote it. He was only telling the truth."
"That's something that will need to be dealt with, Amy. And what about a publisher? Is he thinking about a book deal? Does he have an agent?"
Amy sighed. "Will, I don't think he's thought about anything like that." Amy didn't want to tell Will that Brian didn't even know anyone besides Justin had even read his manuscript. That was something that would need to be dealt with later. "At this moment our writer is in a prison hospital recovering from being stabbed by another inmate. An inmate who raped him years ago AND who had just raped his young cellmate."
"Oh, right," said Will. "Wait a minute! Amy, are you telling me that this guy who stabbed Kinney is the SAME guy in the manuscript? That biker? What was his name?"
"Cisco," said Amy. "Yes, it's the same man."
"Jesus! Amy do you know how GREAT that is?"
"Great?" Amy couldn't believe her ears. "Did you say 'great'?"
"Yes! Don't you see how it brings the whole thing full circle? What an ending! Does he have that part down yet?"
"Brian hasn't written any more, Will," Amy sighed. "He hasn't written an ending because there IS no ending for this story -- yet. Brian has been in the hospital for weeks -- remember? He almost died! And when he's released from the hospital he still has at least another 10 years to go on his sentence. That's why I want this story to be published. It may help him to get out of prison -- or at least to get a new trial. Something. Anything! This man has been through hell and after reading his manuscript I'm convinced that he's not guilty of most of the charges against him. And I think other people will agree, too. Maybe even a judge!"
"Yes, I see what you mean, Amy. But there are still a lot of issues that will need to seen to. Someone is going to have to meet with him about some of these things. Does Kinney have a lawyer?"
"Hold on a minute, Will," said Amy. She was going to be late getting to Stanton for class, but this was important. She opened her briefcase and shuffled through it, looking for the folder with the information about Brian and his manuscript. "Yes," said Amy, pulling out some contact numbers that Warden Horvath had given her. "I have it right here. Are you writing this down?"
"Of course, Amy. Shoot," said Will Foxe.
"Here's the lawyer's name and number," said Amy Carver. "He's the one who handles anything having to do with Brian Kinney. His name is Ron Rosenblum."
Posted December 2, 2004.