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Ron hated to be interrupted.
He had told Julie where he would be and given her the number he'd be at for emergencies only. It was risky enough to be going to Jennifer's house in the afternoon, but taking phone calls there was really asking for trouble!
"She says it's important," said Jennifer, holding out the receiver.
She glanced around nervously. Craig was out of town and Molly was at school, but this was just crazy! How did she let Ron talk her into coming back here when they could have easily gone to the Liberty Motel, as usual? Jennifer was beginning to think that Ron got off on the excitement of doing something forbidden. Of almost getting caught. Yes, that's what he enjoyed. And Jennifer was shocked to realize that she was enjoying it, too. But only up to a point.
Ron grabbed the phone out of Jenn's hand. "What? This better be good!"
"I thought you were in a meeting with a client!" Julie sniped.
"I AM!" Ron returned. Goddamn these females! Once you'd put your dick into one of them, they thought they owned it! "I'm meeting with Mrs. Taylor. Is that any of your business?"
"Then you might want to inform her of something that I just got wind of," said Julie, coolly. "Something that concerns her -- and her son."
Ron sat up in bed. "What?" Anything that had to do with Justin also impacted Brian.
"My source in the Pittsburgh Police Department says that word is going around that Stockwell is withdrawing from the Republican Primary for mayor," said Julie.
"He's withdrawing? When did you hear this?" Ron clutched the receiver tightly.
"Who? Who is withdrawing from what?" Jennifer asked anxiously.
"Shush!" Ron told her. "Is this a reliable source?"
"One of my best," said Julie, proudly. "Apparently there's been an internal investigation within the Pittsburgh PD about some cop who was Jim Stockwell's partner when he was on the force about 10 years ago. This guy, Ken Reikert, and Stockwell both retired about the same time. It seems that they might have been FORCED to retire because of some abuses. The information is really buried, Ron, but my source is trying to track it down. After he left the force, Stockwell went on to law school and then directly into the prosecutor's office, where he worked his way up to the top."
Ron was feeling his excitement rise. "What happened to Reikert? Where is he now?"
"Dead," said Julie, flatly. "He shot himself about a year after his retirement. So there's no way to question him and find out what was going on with him and Stockwell."
"Shit," Ron murmured. "It must have been something big if it's enough to make Stockwell back off from his political ambitions."
"That's what I was thinking," Julie agreed. "But the other thing is....." Julie paused.
"If Stockwell doesn't have a political motive, he's got no reason to block a deal for the kid," said Ron, glancing at Jennifer's worried face. Her eye's widened at his words.
"That's what I was thinking, Ron," said Julie.
"See what you can get on this Reikert thing, Julie," Ron instructed. "Anything at all. We need anything we can get on Stockwell that we can use to put the pressure on him."
"You think that this will impact the kid?"
Ron smiled. "I think this may well be his ticket out of the Quad." Ron turned and looked at Jennifer. She gripped his arm tightly.
"All we need from Stockwell is for him NOT to block a new hearing for the kid. If we can get him in front of a sympathetic judge, preferably female, and lay out what's happened to him in Stanton...." Ron stopped. He had to be careful. Jennifer still didn't know that her son had been raped practically his first day there. The kid hadn't told her and the family, as usual, hadn't been informed. Rape was considered an 'internal matter.' A hazard of being in prison. It wasn't something that you 'snitched' to outsiders about. "All we have to do is present a clean, smart, white, upper-middle class kid who has no priors and who is a model inmate and I think we're home free!"
"I'll start working on it immediately," said Julie. "I thought you'd want to know about this, Ron. I didn't mean to ruin your -- um -- lunch hour recreation!"
"It's not a problem, Julie," said Ron, smoothing her ruffled feathers. He'd take her to dinner and then back to her small apartment for a good fuck in a couple of days. Then she'd be a happy camper. Luckily, Julie wasn't the jealous type. Not as long as she got her share.
And once the kid was out of the Quad, Ron could focus his attention on Brian. He'd press for the Conjugal Visit and, with Justin out of the way, Brian wasn't likely to balk at seeing Ron. He'd actually welcome the attention. Brian got into these moods from time to time. He got lonely and needed attention, just like Julie. Just like Ron's other women. Then a little TLC -- a little "tender loving care" -- would be exactly what Brian needed.
Ron made a mental note to write to Warden Horvath as soon as he got back to the office. He also needed to call that literary agent in New York. The man seemed to think that Brian's manuscript could bring a large piece of change, especially if the publishing houses got into a bidding war over it after the excerpts appeared in the 'New Yorker.' But that was in the near future. Ron would have plenty of time to get Brian into a receptive mood before that.
And then... who knew? Brian might really get a new trial, especially if the book was a success. He could actually get out of the Quad -- in a year or two. And Ron would be waiting. With open arms.
"Does this mean that Justin is going to be free?" asked Jennifer, almost afraid to hope. "Do you think it's possible?"
The smile left Ron's face. "It's possible, my dear. Which is why you must begin planning what you are going to do if that happens. What WE are going to do. It might be a good idea for you and your son and daughter to leave Pittsburgh after your divorce is final."
"Leave? But why?" Jennifer was confused.
"So that you both can begin new lives," said Ron. "You wouldn't want your son to face the stigma of going back to his old neighborhood as an ex-convict, would you? Think of how hard it would be for him, especially when he has his whole young life ahead of him. In a new place he wouldn't have to deal with everyone knowing that he had been in prison."
"That's true," Jennifer admitted. "A fresh start in a new city. I have a sister in Chicago. And some other relatives out in Seattle." Then she frowned. "But what about us, Ron? How will we be together if we aren't in the same city?"
"Don't fret, Jenn. I'll take care of everything," said Ron, stroking Jennifer -- and also himself. "Don't you worry, I'll figure it out -- all in good time. You'll see, my dear. You'll see."
Em was planning her wardrobe for the Fourth of July Picnic.
She wanted something festive, but also summery. She had a pair of old workpants that she'd cut off and turned into Daisy Dukes, but they looked a little trashy. She knew that Barbie would be wearing a pair of capri-pants that she'd made with some material that her sister had sent her, but Barbie was a whiz with a needle and thread. Em, on the other hand, was more of a stylist. She wasn't too good at sewing, but she was a genius at putting an outfit together.
Of course, in the Quad getting your hands on the right fabric, not to mention the correct accessories was a pain in the ass. Michelle was lucky because her mom lived nearby and could bring her anything she wanted. Debbie often got things for Emmy, too, but Em hated to be a pest about it. Her own poor family down in Mississippi couldn't very well send her the kinds of things she needed to make her wardrobe a true fashion statement, so Em had to scramble and barter and give out what she could in trade for the things she needed.
"Are you going to sign up for any of the games?" asked Michelle, looking over the schedule of events for the picnic.
"And mess up my clothes? No thank you!" snorted Em.
"The Powder Puff Softball Game might be fun," said Michelle. "And they're giving out prizes for things like the Sack Race and the Egg Toss -- all the 'Queens Only' events. They're giving out gift certificates for the canteen to the winners and runners-up get bags of candy."
"What are the guys getting for their events?" asked Em.
"Let's see." Michelle read down the list. "For the weight-lifting events the winners get cans of protein formula! Ben would like that! He's sure to win something in one of those!"
"Yeah, Ben really needs more protein in his body!" Em laughed. "What about the track events?"
"More gift certificates for the canteen. And a pair of running shoes, too, for the winner of the Mile! That's what Brian won last year," said Michelle, sadly. "This year he's in no shape to win anything."
"Honey, that boy is lucky he's even walking, so I'm sure he doesn't mind that he isn't running this year!"
Michelle shook her head. "Justin says he's really depressed. Ben says so, too. He's pretty frustrated that he can't get his strength back."
"Oh, pooh!" said Em. "Dr. Caputo told me that Brian is doing just fine! It's mainly because he's bored out of his mind down in the ward. But it could be a lot worse. If Justin wasn't around to keep him occupied for most of the day, he'd drive me and all the other orderlies crazy!"
"It's bad enough being locked up in the Quad, but being stuck in the Hospital Wing must be murder!" Michelle added. "And Brian is so restless all the time, I can't imagine what he must be feeling."
"Well, Little Miss Sunshine has her hands full with Bri-Baby, let me tell you!" Em stated. "Sometimes he yells at Justin and the boy walks out into the hallway and stands there for about 15 minutes, just getting his shit together. But he always comes right back in and faces Bad Bri down again. He's got a lot of patience, that kid!"
"Do you think Brian will come to the Fourth of July Picnic?" asked Michelle. "He HAS to! He can't miss the party!"
Emmy shrugged. "Bri told me that he wasn't going unless he could get out there himself, walk around the Yard, and then get back -- all under his own power. He refuses to use the wheelchair and he won't lean on either me or Justin to get around anymore."
"Is Brian really strong enough to do that?" Michelle asked.
"It depends," Em admitted. "He knocks into things a lot. And he falls down, too, but Justin and I pretend not to notice -- unless he can't get up again. But he gets mad if you try to help him."
"Jesus," said Michelle. "That's rough.
"Men!" replied Em. "Can't live with them -- and don't want to live without them!"
"Amen!" Michelle laughed.
There was a knock on the cell. Em and Michelle looked up to see Wesley.
"Hiya, honey, what's cooking?" asked Em.
"Ben sent me up here to see if you guys were busy," the boy answered.
"Just primping for the Fourth, darling!" said Em.
"Where's Ben? I thought he was over in the Hospital Wing, working with Brian," said Michelle.
"He is," said Wes. "I mean -- he was. Anyway, he says to be ready!"
Michelle frowned. "Ready for what?" he called after Wesley, but he was already gone. "What was THAT all about?"
"You know your man better than I do, honey -- so you tell me!" countered Em.
Emmy and Michelle continued to go through their clothes for the Fourth of July Picnic, finally deciding that a red, white, and blue theme would definitely be the way to go.
"Hey, ladies!" said Barbie, sticking her head into the cell. "Come out! Something's up!"
"Now what?" sighed Em. "This place is like Grand Central Station!"
Em stood up and stretched, while Michelle went to the door and peered out. Em came and looked out over her shoulder, while Barbie leaned against the outside of the bars.
Most of the guys were gathered outside their cells or in front of the Rec Room. And three of the C.O.'s were standing by the freight elevator next to the stairwell. The elevators were used only by the guards or for transporting goods up and down the tiers, and inmates were forbidden to set foot in them.
But the door of the elevator opened and Em, Michelle, and Barbie were surprised to see Ben get out. Wesley was waiting by the stairwell, leaning against the railings. He stepped forward and took a bundle from Ben's hands.
And then Justin came out of the elevator, with Brian right behind him. Brian moving very slowly. Brian looking very thin and very pale. But Brian Kinney -- back on the third tier of the East Wing.
"Oh my God!" cried Michelle. "Brian!"
Michelle started to move towards him, but Em grabbed Michelle's shirt and held her back. "Don't crowd the man, darling. Give him a little time to do it his own way."
Em knew the effort it took for Brian to do this because she'd watched his slow progress during his weeks in the Hospital Wing. The guards allowing Brian to use the elevator made it possible for him to get up to his tier. Ben's physical therapy helped Brian to build up his strength. Dr. Caputo's casual attitude toward the rules permitted Justin to be with Brian as much as he was able. And Justin's constant presence -- coaxing, nurturing, badgering, comforting, and loving -- gave Brian the courage to continue, even when he thought it was hopeless.
Justin pulled Brian out of the elevator and onto the tier. "I drew a new picture for the room," said Justin. "With the pastels that my mom sent me. I put it up on the wall right next to the bunk."
"I hope it isn't a picture of my cock," Brian whispered. "The C.O.'s will write us up for sure if they saw one of THOSE drawings!"
Justin gave him a little push. "No, Brian! It's a picture of our horse! I used gold and bronze for the body and silver for the mane and tail. And I made the valley green with blue shadows. And the sky blue and grey and white."
Ben stood on Brian's other side, not touching him, but letting Brian know that he was there in case he felt himself getting shaky. And Wes walked right behind them, carrying Brian's small bundle of clothes and personal items.
All the guys were waiting and watching to see what would happen, both inmates and C.O.'s. Michelle and Barbie were waving from in front of their cell and Emmy was grinning proudly.
Brian paused as a cramp in his side shot through him. This was the farthest he'd walked by himself so far, and he still needed to get all the way down the tier to his and Justin's cell, E-320. "I think I'm going to need that damn golden horse to carry me the rest of the way, Justin," Brian breathed.
Justin linked his arm through Brian's and moved him forward slowly. "Don't worry, Brian. We don't need a horse, " he replied. "We'll carry each other."
Posted December 3, 2004.