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Brian looked up to see one the C.O.'s standing at the door of the Law Library. Brian recognized him. He was assigned to Administration, mainly as an escort.
"You got a lawyer visit."
"Oh," said Brian. He looked over his calendar. He knew nothing had been scheduled, but it was always good to double-check.
"Who's lawyer is this?" asked Brian as he closed up the office. Attorneys for men who were up for parole or working on an appeal often requested a visit with Brian in order to update him on the progress of the case. But those visits were usually scheduled well in advance.
"Don't know." The C.O. snapped. "They just tell me who to bring over. I don't ask a bunch of damn fool questions."
Well, thought Brian, that'll teach me to keep my fucking mouth shut.
The C.O. walked Brian through the underground passage to the Administration Building and upstairs to where the lawyer rooms were located. These were small meeting rooms that were windowed, so the C.O.'s could watch the inmates and their lawyers, but were also soundproof to ensure the privacy of the lawyer/client relationship.
"In here." The C.O. shoved open the door.
Brian was surprised to see Julie Finch, a senior lawyer with the Prisoners' Legal Defense.
"Brian!" she said, standing and taking his hand. "You sure look handsome!"
Brian smiled. "If you say so, Julie. I don't spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror."
That was so typical of Brian, thought Julie, sitting back down. Brian took the chair on the other side of the table. They were careful not to be seen having more physical contact than a handshake, or else Brian surely would be subjected to a complete body search after the interview.
"How are you feeling, Brian?" Julie asked. "Having any problems from your stabbing? Is there anything that you need that I can get you? You look good, but you're still thin as hell."
Julie certainly didn't mince words, thought Brian. She was always bugging him about his health. Julie had always been like a mother hen. But that's what Brian liked about her -- her caring, but no-bullshit manner.
"I'm doing okay. I'm still a little weak and I can't lift what I used to be able to, but other than that." Brian flipped his hand in the air. "It's not bad. And I don't need anything. Really, I have more than I need to get by."
"I heard that your parents came to see you," she said. "Ron told me that it was a big surprise."
"No shit!" said Brian. "I didn't stay the whole time. It was, um, not a very comfortable visit. That's all I'll say."
Julie nodded. "But your father did give you that information about Jim Stockwell and a possible connection with Justin's lawyer, Gordon Maxwell, right?" Julie opened a folder on the desk between them.
Brian sat up straight in his chair. "Yes. I told Ron about it."
"And I've been following it up, Brian." Julie glanced over her papers. Then she looked up and grinned. "I think that there's something there. Something that we can use. I have one of the paralegals checking donors to Stockwell's campaign and our private detective is out digging up dirt on Maxwell. I know that we'll come up with something."
Brian felt a wave of relief go through him. Julie was relentless. Once she got her teeth in a case she never let it go. That's what made her such a shark in the courtroom.
"Thanks, Julie," said Brian, sincerely. "You don't know how much this means to me."
Julie tilted her head. Poor Brian. She'd watched him grow up in prison. She remembered the first time she had visited him, not long after Ron had reclaimed him from the motorcycle gang. The boy had been a real mess. Gaunt and sickly, with the pale, haunted look of a drug addict, even though he was no longer using by then.
Julie kept visiting Brian over the years, not so much because there was any progress on his case -- there wasn't any -- but because he fascinated her. First, he hooked up with Ron. That had shocked her because Ron had always been such an aggressive womanizer. But sex was sex and Ron had been in prison for almost five years by then. And Brian was a pretty piece of work. He wasn't Julie's type -- she liked older, dominant men -- but she could see his appeal to a guy who wanted something soft and sweet and had no access to a real female.
Then, over the years, she watched Brian become a man before her eyes. From a shy and stammering youth, he became a keen, articulate, and unwavering advocate for the inmates inside Stanton. Julie would never say it to Ron, but Brian's briefs were usually better written and more sharply argued than Ron's own. And reading Brian's manuscript had been another revelation to her. It explained so much about things she had only guessed at over the years. Julie hoped that the publication of Brian's prison memoirs would lead to some kind of break in his case. Brian deserved something after all he'd been through.
"I know what it means to you, Brian," said Julie. "We're doing everything we can to get Justin out and I have some promising news on that front. We have a date for a hearing on Justin's case."
Brian swallowed. This was even better than he had imagined. "When?"
"In a little over three weeks. November 14," Julie replied. "And it's with Judge Margaret Higgins. I was praying that we'd get her, Brian. She's a mother with two kids in college and she was a civil rights attorney before she became a judge. She's exactly the kind of person who might be sympathetic to Justin and hard on the tactics Stockwell used in prosecuting him. So keep your fingers crossed. She may well order a new trial for Justin. Or she might even call for early parole for him. But it looks good. It looks very good."
"That soon," Brian whispered. "Thank God!"
"I'm only sorry that...." Julie paused, closing her folder.
"Sorry about what?" Brian frowned. This was the best news possible, so what could Julie be disappointed about?
"There's nothing new on your case, Brian," said Julie. "I had hoped for something, but...." Julie sighed. "I'm so sorry, Brian."
"Don't be, Julie," said Brian. "After all these years I'm not expecting anything new to come up. Those people are so far underground that no one will ever find them. They probably aren't even in this country anymore. I appreciate that you're still working on my case, but I'm also realistic about it."
"Maybe when your story is published?" Julie offered. "Maybe something will turn up then."
"I'm glad you still have hope, Julie," Brian acknowledged. "But I'd rather that you focused on Justin's case. Or on getting a hardship release for Wesley Richmond so that he can go and see his mother in Indiana before she dies. That's what needs to be done."
"I'm working on all those things, Brian." Julie shook her head. There was so much still to be done! She only wished that some of her hard work could benefit this deserving man. "But I'll never stop working on your case. I promise you!"
"I'll hold you to that, Julie," said Brian, sadly. "Maybe in 10 years I'll be able to buy you dinner to thank you."
"What if I say the wrong thing? What if I fuck everything up?" asked Justin, nervously.
He and Brian were walking around the track that ringed the Yard. It was a sunny day, but the wind was cold. Justin could feel the snow inside that wind. Winter was almost here.
"You won't say the wrong thing," Brian replied. "Do what I told you. Only answer 'Yes, Your Honor' or 'No, Your Honor' to questions the judge asks you. Don't offer any information unless Julie tells you to say it. Otherwise, let her do all of the talking. That's what she's there for. To be your mouthpiece."
"But what if...."
Brian put a finger across Justin's lips. "Don't 'what if,' Justin. It will be fine. You have nothing to lose in this hearing. You've already been convicted. You're already in prison. This can only be a good thing for your case. The judge is willing to review your arrest and what went on during your trial. Julie says that she's sympathetic to cases like yours. So don't sweat it."
Justin sighed. "I know, Brian. But I can't help it. I'm really nervous thinking about going to court."
Justin kept reflecting back on his trial almost exactly a year before. It had been such a nightmare that the thought of going back into a courtroom made Justin feel an anxiety attack coming on. Those attacks had been more frequent ever since the stabbing in the Chow Hall. He was now able to go to meals, but he still started shaking every time he remembered the blood and body on the floor in front of him.
Now Justin was afraid that the minute he walked into court, he'd feel the walls closing in on him, he'd begin to sweat, his heart would start pounding, and then he'd totally freak out!
"It's going to be fine," said Brian. He put his arm around Justin as they walked. He felt Justin shiver, but Brian couldn't tell if it was from the cold wind or from apprehension.
Brian had been doing everything he could to prepare Justin for what was likely to happen in court. It was important that he make a good impression on the judge. Important that Justin appear to be exactly what he was -- a bright, well-focused boy who had made a mistake, but who didn't belong in prison. A boy who wanted to continue his education and who was not likely to be a burden on society or a threat to it in the future. Brian couldn't imagine that a judge could look at Justin or read the record of what had happened to him in Stanton and not believe that he had gotten a shitty deal from the legal system.
"Let's go in," Brian suggested. "It's getting colder."
Right inside the door they found Emmy and Barbie waiting for them.
"Justin!" cried Em. "We wanted to know if you'd make some drawings for our Thanksgiving Party?"
Brian rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me that you got approval for that fiasco?"
Emmy batted her eyes. "Now, Bri Baby, I know that last year's party was a bit of a dud, but this year it's going to be great! But we will need decorations! That's one of things that was missing last year!"
"Yes, Emmett," said Brian. "Along with food and drink and music and anything that would make a bunch of queens parading around a room resemble a real party!"
"What happened last year?" asked Justin. He was now intensely curious about this so-called Thanksgiving 'fiasco.'
"The queens in the East Wing decided to have a party the day after Thanksgiving," Brian explained. "Since they didn't have any resources to give a party or a place to have it, they decided that Friday Movie Night would be the best venue for their soiree."
"It was the perfect time," said Barbie. "Or it would have been -- if SOME people weren't party poopers!"
"Yeah," Brian smirked. "Like all of the men who wanted to watch the movie! The queens kept parading in their Thanksgiving finery and they wouldn't sit down when they movie started to play. Then there was a big argument between the guys who were sick of the queens' antics and the queens who were determined that they were going to keep doing what they were doing. It almost ended in a fistfight between the queens and a couple of guys from the second tier. It was a fucking disaster!"
"It was merely a lack of planning," Emmy sniffed. "That's why we got permission this year to have a REAL party. So we're going to need decorations. Do you think you can draw some turkeys and Pilgrims and that sort of thing, Justin?"
"I think I can manage it," Justin laughed. "Turkeys and Pilgrims shouldn't be too difficult."
Emmy and Barbie went off, giggling, while Brian and Justin headed for the Law Library. Brian unlocked the door and they went inside.
Justin's thick folder was on Brian's desk. He had gone over his lover's file multiple times, making certain that he hadn't missed some crucial point. But now it was out of Brian's hands. It was up to Julie to present Justin's case and then up to the judge to rule on it. One thing you learned in prison was that you were powerless in the face of the legal system. You could only hope and pray that you'd get a break -- or that a miracle would happen and someone would understand what a raw deal you'd gotten. And then you would be outside.
Outside. Brian tried to imagine what that was like. But he couldn't. When Brian had entered prison the country was neck-deep in the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon was president, and the Beatles were still releasing albums. But a decade had passed since then. Brian hadn't seen a movie made in the 1970's. He hadn't been to a store, or driven a car, or cooked a meal. He hadn't handled real money, or written a check, or paid a bill. So many simple things that normal people did every day were alien to Brian's existence.
There were days when the thought of leaving the Quad made his heart race with fear. Brian remembered the time he had spent in County General Hospital, when all he could think about was going home. Home -- to prison.
There were old men in the Hospital Wing who had spent most of their lives in prison -- and now they would soon die there. Brian couldn't help but think that was his fate, too. 20 years-to-life. Brian thought much more about the life part than the 20 years. His father was on the verge of dying. And then maybe his mother would be next. And one day even Ron would stop coming to the Quad, either too ill to get there or no longer interested in his cellmate from so long ago. Maybe Brian would be one of those old men in the Hospital Wing, with no one left on the outside who cared. An old man, waiting. That's what prison was. Nothing but waiting. Waiting for the end of your sentence. Or the end of your life.
But that wouldn't happen to Justin. Justin would get out. He would escape before he was caught in the trap. It was already too late for punks like Stormy and Lee. No older than Justin, they were already lifers in their own heads. Prison was the world they knew and they would return to it again and again. Brian had seen it before. Guys who were paroled and loudly proclaimed that they were going straight. That they would never come back to the joint. But they did come back. In and out and in and out -- it was a revolving door.
But not Justin.
Justin came over and stood next to Brian's chair. He put his arms around Brian's neck and hugged him. Justin didn't know why he'd done it, he just did. Something was telling him that he need to touch his lover. Needed to reassure him. Everything would be okay! It would be!
Soon they would be out -- both of them. And they'd build a new life. Maybe in the spring. That's when everything would be perfect. The world would be new and green and beautiful, like the beautiful valley in Justin's imagination. And that golden horse would truly run free.
They both would run free.
Justin closed his eyes and smiled.
After head count, but before lights-out was called, Justin sat on the floor of the cell sketching a Pilgrim. Unfortunately, he didn't have a real model for his Pilgrims, other than his memories of Thanksgiving celebrations from grade school and one fuzzy picture in an old encyclopedia from the Library.
"The hat isn't right," Justin frowned. "It looks more like the Wicked Witch of the West than a Pilgrim, don't you think, Brian?"
"Then it should be perfect for Emmett's party," Brian said. "Any party the queens throw is much more about 'The Wizard of Oz' than Colonial America."
"I guess so," said Justin, putting the drawing aside. "Turkeys and Pilgrims aren't exactly an artistic challenge. I need something new to draw."
Brian was lying on the bottom bunk, his arms crossed under the back of his head, staring up at the underside of the top bunk. He'd been very quiet that evening, Justin thought. In fact, Brian had been very quiet all week. Maybe it was because Justin's hearing was approaching and Brian was nervous about it -- almost as nervous as Justin was himself.
And now it was tomorrow.
But Justin was surprised at how calm he was in the end. Everything had been done and there was nothing more for Justin to do except be there. Brian had drilled that fact into his head. Just sit passively and only speak when you're spoken to. Let Julie do all of the talking. Don't yawn or look bored or smirk or make any smart remarks or rude gestures, no matter what happens. Then everything will go as planned.
"You should think about working on your art more seriously, Justin," Brian said suddenly. "I know you were supposed to go to that art school, but that's a goal you shouldn't give up simply because you've had a slight detour in your education."
"Slight detour, huh?" Justin grinned. "More like an alien abduction to a distant planet!"
"But you'll come down to Earth eventually," Brian replied. "I mean it, Justin. Don't let things like that slide. You have real talent and you don't want it to go to waste drawing turkeys and Pilgrims."
"I promise I won't, Brian." said Justin. "I was thinking of taking a correspondence course in art. Not one of those 'Draw Blinky' places that advertise on matchbook covers, but something from a real art department. Amy Carver said that she would ask some friends of hers at the Community College who they might recommend. Then I could send the professor some samples of my work and see if he wanted to take me on as a student."
"That's an excellent idea," Brian sighed.
Brian leaned over and snapped on the radio. It was always tuned to the local Oldies station. Those were the songs that Brian was the most familiar with. They played some of the current hits, but it was chiefly music from the Fifties and Sixties. Justin had gotten used to listening to those older songs, too, until he knew them almost as well as Brian did. Classic Elvis songs. The Beatles. Motown. They were always playing softly in the background while the two men were lying in the bunk, making love or falling asleep afterwards.
"Baby, I need your loving,
Baby, I need your loving,
Although you're never near,
Your voice I often hear.
Another day, another night,
I long to hold you tight,
'Cause I'm so lonely."
"Oh!" said Justin, hearing the Four Tops' song come out of the little radio. "Get up and dance with me, Brian! I love this one!"
"You know that I'm not much of a dancer, Justin," Brian confessed. He knew that Justin loved to dance and there wasn't much opportunity for him to do it in the Quad. Sometimes Justin coaxed Brian to slow dance in the cell, but Brian was embarrassed, afraid that one of the other jockers might see them dancing and make fun of Brian.
But tonight Brian didn't hesitate. He stood up slowly and took Justin in his arms.
"Baby, I need your loving,
Got to have all your loving,
Baby, I need your loving,
Got to have all your loving.
Some say it's a sign of weakness
For a man to beg.
Then weak I'd rather be
If it means having you to keep,
'Cause lately I've been losing sleep.
Every night I call your name,
Oh, sometimes I wonder
Will I ever be the same?
Baby, I need your loving,
Got to have all your loving,
Baby, I need your loving,
Got to have all your loving...."
The song faded out, but the two kept circling slowly on the tiny space of floor, Justin's head leaning against Brian's strong chest.
"Lights-out in 5 minutes!" called the C.O., walking up the tier. "Lights-out in 5!"
"I guess that's it for tonight," whispered Justin. "The ballroom is closed."
"Sorry about that, Cinderella," said Brian. And then he kissed Justin.
They turned off the lights in the cell and undressed each other in the dark.
November was well underway and the stone walls Stanton were cold, especially at night. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter, that's how you could tell the turning of the seasons. And the darkening of the sunlight that came in through the small windows. The days were getting shorter and the nights longer. If it was anything like last year, then the snow this winter would be deep and the temperature low for many long months to come.
Brian covered himself and Justin with the rough blanket. Justin began kissing Brian softly, moving around his face, down his neck, and then his body with his expansive lips, leaving a damp trail with his tongue. Justin licked the length of Brian's cock, feeling it stiffen and pulsate in his hand and in his mouth.
Justin reached for the small jar of Vaseline to coat Brian's cock, but Brian stopped him.
"Justin," he whispered. "Do you want to fuck me tonight?"
Justin was surprised. Brian had allowed Justin to top him only a handful of times, usually after Brian had already fucked him and was feeling in a very laid-back mood. It was dangerous for a punk to fuck his jock. Someone might find out about it, or even catch them in the act. Then there would be serious consequences in the Quad for the man who was proved to be less than the real thing. That was something that Brian, as a former punk, was always very aware of.
"Are you sure?" Justin asked.
"Yes," said Brian. His voice sounded distant. "Please."
The space was limiting, but the two managed to maneuver so that Brian could spread his legs wide and tilt his ass upward to meet Justin's dick. He wanted to be fucked face-to-face. It was more difficult in the bunk that way, but Justin didn't mind. He wanted to look into his lover's face. See his expression. Be able to kiss him and be kissed back. That wasn't only fucking, but making love.
Justin wanted it to last as long as possible, but once he felt Brian's ass tighten around his dick he couldn't contain his excitement. He thrust quickly and deeply, reveling in the sensation. He loved being fucked and he wanted to give Brian the same amount of pleasure, but Justin shot after a few minutes.
It seemed way too short a time, but Brian didn't complain. He wrapped his arms around Justin and waited until Justin's cock began to retreat from his ass. Finally, Justin pulled it out gently and wiped it with a kleenex.
"You didn't come," said Justin. "I'll suck you off."
"No," said Brian. "It's all right. Just lie here next to me."
Justin stretched out next to Brian. The radio was still playing softly in its niche in the wall. Some song from 'Grease.' That was the hit movie of the year. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing one of those Fifties-sounding songs. Something about summer nights, which seemed incongruous on such a chilly autumn night.
"I love you, Brian," Justin sighed. He felt good. And he was no longer afraid of tomorrow. He would hold his head up high in the courtroom. He wouldn't let Brian down by being a pussy. After all, there really was nothing for him to fear. No one could hurt him.
"Justin," said Brian. "I only want you to be happy. And safe. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes," Justin replied. "I know. Why do you say that?"
"Because," Brian said. "I wanted you to know it. And not forget it. Okay?"
"Okay. I'll never forget it." Justin closed his eyes. He thought about how content he was. Yes, against all of the odds. "Everything is going to be great, Brian. You'll see."
"I know it will be," Brian breathed. He touched his forehead to Justin's smooth brow. "I know it will. From now on."
Posted June 22, 2005.