Go to all chapters of "Medium Security".
"You can't give up," Baraka said firmly. "This ain't about you, Kinney. This is about what you can do."
"And what's that?" asked Brian. He was lying on the lower bunk, as usual, staring up at the bottom of the upper bunk. At the underside of the old mattress and the sagging slats that held it up. At nothing.
"Your job, Kinney!" Baraka admonished. "There's men here who need to know the law. I'm up for parole again in the spring. What you planning to do about that?"
Brian shrugged. "You don't need me to advise you on your parole, Baraka. You know the law as well as I do."
"Right, Brother!" Baraka huffed. "I know so much shit! That's why they turned me down the last two times!"
"The PLD is sending over that paralegal twice a week to clean up the Law Office and pick up the Stanton cases," said Brian. "He's trained to do the job, Baraka. They don't need me. They never needed me. Ron only used that as an excuse to keep me out of trouble -- and to put me where he could keep an eye on me. That's all it ever was."
"You full of such bullshit, Kinney!" Baraka snorted. "You think that the men in the Quad don't need your voice to speak up for them? You think they don't need your knowledge? Some paralegal who's never been in the joint is gonna understand their cases? Some fucking kid is gonna take your place? Wake the fuck up, Kinney!"
"I am awake, Baraka," Brian replied indifferently. "You made certain of that by cutting off my supply of pills. But don't be fooled. If I really wanted to off myself there are a thousand ways to do it. I don't need your pills. I don't need dope. All I need is the will."
"Don't fuck yourself over, Kinney!" Baraka countered. "You think you doing yourself a favor by sitting here in the dark? You think that you doing your punk a favor? You think he ain't hurting by what you doing? Because he's hurting! He knows what you up to. All your queeny friends are filling him in with all the fucked up details. That kid's got enough problems as it is! What's that doing to his head?"
"I don't know," Brian muttered. "But he'll forget. Eventually he'll forget all about me."
"Forget?" Baraka replied. "Shit, man! You got no idea what's in that kid's head! He as fucked up as you are! I don't care if he in the joint or outside -- he is fucked up! And you the only man who can understand what he's feeling. But you're too fucking selfish to help him! A fucking selfish cracker asshole! That's so very fine, Kinney! You don't care about nothing or nobody but yourself. That ain't the man I know. That's somebody else I don't want to know."
"I'm sorry," said Brian, turning his head away. "There's nothing I can do. It's too fucking late."
Baraka went to the door of the cell. "You can stay here in the dark and pretend that nothing matters, but you can't bullshit me. Anything happens to you, Kinney, and that kid is history. So I hope you ready to face that fact. You two connected. Like two pieces of one thing that fit together. You pull those pieces apart and the whole thing don't work. And that don't mean just you, Kinney, but the kid, too. He won't work right. He'll never work right."
"I'm not even listening to you, Baraka," said Brian, quietly. "So why don't you leave?"
"I'm leaving," said the other inmate. "But don't tell me that you never did nothing that mattered. Or that words don't matter. Because they do. I wouldn't be here if they didn't. So listen to THAT, Kinney."
Baraka pushed open the door of the cell and almost walked right into Emmy.
"Excuse me, Mr. Baraka," said the queen. "May I go in, please?"
"Suit yourself," said Baraka. "I got business." And he stalked off back to the South Wing.
"Brian?" said Emmy, going into the cell hesitantly. "Can I come in?"
"You're already in," said Brian, abruptly. "I can't stop you now. This place is like Grand fucking Central Station."
"Brian, I... I brought you something." Emmy was clutching a large manila envelope.
"You can put my mail on the floor," said Brian. "Then get out."
"This isn't your mail, Brian," said Emmy. "It's mine. But I thought you might want to see it."
"I'm not interested." Brian turned over and reached for his little radio, turning the volume knob up higher as if to drown out any other sound.
"It's from Justin," Em said. "He sent it to me because he knows that you aren't opening any of his letters or packages. He didn't want this to sit on the floor of the cell untouched like all of the others he's sent."
But Brian didn't answer.
"Justin wrote me this letter," Em continued. "And he also enclosed this picture he drew. I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm going to read it to you anyway because Justin asked me to." Em paused to wait for Brian's reply, but there was none. "Justin writes: 'Please take this drawing to Brian. I know that if I mail it to him he won't open it, but maybe if you take it to the cell he'll at least look at it. Only one look. That's all I'm hoping for. I drew this after I had a dream. Like most of my dreams, it was about me and Brian. And about a place that only we can go to. Brian thinks that he can go there alone, but I know better. He can't go alone. We can only go together. And if he decides that he's going there soon, tell him that I'll be waiting for him. I'll be right there. That's all you need to say. Love, Justin.'"
Emmy pulled another piece of paper out of the envelope. It was a drawing. Emmy leaned down and set it on the bunk next to Brian. "I'll be going now," said Em. "But I promised Justin that I would do this. And so I did."
Em turned and left the cell, closing the door behind him.
Brian didn't react. He listened to the radio for a few minutes until he finally reached over and snapped it off.
Then he picked up the drawing that Emmett had left behind. Brian wanted to crumple it up and throw it across the cell, but he couldn't. So he looked at it.
It was a drawing very much like the one already tacked to the wall next to Brian's bunk. It showed the familiar green valley and the blue sky of his dreams. And the golden horse was running through the valley. Except that in Justin's new drawing there were two horses running together. Two golden horses in perfect step.
Brian stared at the drawing for a long time.
"Justin," he whispered finally. "Can you hear me?"
"You can't hold me here against my will!" spat Kirk Bradley.
He was cuffed to the iron bedstead by one hand and both feet. He had a pillow against his back and a blanket thrown over him, but otherwise he was naked. He didn't know what day it was or what city they were in. Jones had knocked him out with an injection of some sort and when he woke up they were in this room in an unknown place.
A.J. Jones, private investigator, was lying on the other bed, leafing through a magazine. It was a recent copy of 'The New Yorker.' "You should read some of the letters to the editor that are still coming in about that series on prison that they ran in December." Jones shook his head. "Amazing what a raw deal that kid got. The boy who took the rap for the Penn State Bombings. Apparently even a few of the men on the prosecutor's team are admitting privately that there was very little evidence against him. All they had was his admission that he drove his lover and the lover's friends to the building and then drove them back. And all of the physical evidence they collected was from the apartment that had been abandoned by that same lover, a guy named Glenn Fitzpatrick."
"Shut up!" whined Kirk. "Let me go! Please?"
Jones sighed heavily. "What a scumbag that Glenn must have been. And he probably wasn't even a faggot, either. Not at all. But he had no problem with seducing a young kid who had never even had gay sex before. No problem with making the boy think that he was in love with him. Can you imagine what that must have done to the poor kid's head when he realized what his lover had done? That everything he believed about him was a lie? And not only that, but that the guy had purposely set him up so that the real culprits could away scot free."
"Quit reading that shit!" Kirk begged. "I'll pay you! I'll pay you anything you want. Just let me go!"
"Pay me?" Jones smiled slyly. "With what? You don't have any money. You've been on the run since 1968. You've never held a job anywhere for longer than a year and you've never made much more than minimum wage. So, Kirk, you want to ask your estranged wife for it? Or maybe you'd like to contact your parents and get the cash from them? I'm sure they'd love to hear from you after all these years."
"What do you want from me?" Kirk asked for the hundredth time.
"The truth," said Jones, flatly. "And Justice. That's what I want. And I'm going to get it from you, Kirk or Glenn or whoever you are. Justice for that poor kid you buffaloed. And he's still in prison. Think about that. About what that's been like for him. Those stories in the magazine were pretty horrific, weren't they, Kirk? It's bad enough going to jail on a 20-year-to-life sentence, but to be raped and beaten and drugged once you get there... that's harsh, man. Very, very harsh."
"I didn't do anything!" Kirk moaned. "Nobody was supposed to get killed! Nobody was supposed to get hurt! It was an accident!"
"Accident? What did you think was going to happen when you blew up a building, Kirk?" Jones questioned. "You didn't care if anyone was killed or hurt! You didn't care as long as you made a big noise. As long as that building went up in a blaze of glory. But that didn't even happen, did it? The building didn't blow up. And all you made was a lot of smoke. But it was enough to kill that old man, the security guard in the basement. Enough for a second degree murder charge. Enough to put that kid away in prison to be tortured and raped."
"Shut the fuck UP!" cried Kirk. "I have to piss. Please let me up?"
Jones got off the bed and walked into the bathroom. He came back with a plastic bucket. "Here you go, Kirk."
"Let me get up and use the can. I swear I won't try anything," Kirk promised.
"If you'd rather piss all over yourself than use the bucket, it's okay by me," said Jones.
"I... I'll use the bucket."
Jones pulled back the blanket and held it while Kirk relieved himself.
"You still have a nice dick," said Jones, taking the bucket. "Your body has gone to hell, but I can see how you must have been a sexy guy in your day. Tell me, did you enjoy fucking the kid? He was really beautiful. Long brown hair and green and gold eyes. Long legs and a slender body. Did you enjoy it, Kirk? Did you?"
"I said for you to shut up!" said Kirk.
Jones nodded and took the bucket to the bathroom, where he emptied it into the toilet. Then he washed his hands and walked back into the room.
"You know something? This isn't only a job for me, Kirk," Jones confided. "See, I'm a faggot, too. And the whole idea of you seducing that kid so heartlessly, of using him so fucking cynically -- that sticks in my queer craw. I think of that beautiful boy and what his life must have been like in prison for all of these years and it makes me sick to my stomach. Doesn't it make you sick, too, Kirk? Don't you feel any compassion at all for the person whose life you destroyed?"
"Let me go to sleep," Kirk whispered. "And just stop talking about him! Please stop talking about Brian!"
"Oh," said Jones, in surprise. "You remember his name. That means he's an actual person to you. A real, live person. But no -- I don't want you to go to sleep, Kirk. I want you to stay awake and think about that person. About Brian. I want you to picture his face. And keep picturing it until you can't see anything else. Can't think about anything else. Not even in your dreams."
"Stop it," said Kirk. "For godsake!"
"No," said Jones. "I won't stop it. Not until I get what I want."
"Are you doing your homework, honey?" asked Debbie.
It was after the breakfast rush at the Liberty Diner and things had slowed enough to allow Justin to sit down in one of the empty booths and take a large pad out of his bookbag.
"No," Justin replied. "I'm drawing a picture for Brian."
Deb looked over his shoulder and saw that Justin was sketching a bird in flight with an array of colorful pencils.
"Is that an eagle, hon?" Deb squinted at the drawing.
"No, it's a falcon. They're fast and they're free," Justin said, shading the bird's wing. "They soar until they see their prey and then they outfly it. But falcons are also prized for their beauty as well as their speed, so they often get captured, chained, and hooded. Then they're trained to hunt. In medieval times only noblemen were allowed to own falcons. But they were still not free." Justin paused and gripped the pencil tightly. "But this one is free. All of the animals in my drawings are free."
"Why are you making this picture for Brian?" Deb was puzzled. What would a prison inmate want with a picture of some bird?
"I've been sending him a drawing every day instead of writing him a letter." Justin touched the paper with the tips of his fingers. "I don't need to send him words. When he sees this, he'll understand what I'm trying to tell him."
Debbie shrugged. "If you say so, Sunshine, but it sounds a little nutty to me!" And she went back to the counter to take an order.
Justin had been sending the drawings to Brian for about two weeks now. He had yet to get a reply, but Justin felt that he didn't need one. He knew that Brian was getting the pictures. Looking at them. And answering Justin in his own way. Justin no longer closed his eyes and felt only emptiness where Brian was. He knew that Brian was there. But Justin also knew that it would still be a long road until Brian came all the way back. A long road until he was as free as the bird in the drawing.
He looked up to see Ron standing there. His mother's boyfriend was bundled up in his expensive cashmere coat, unwrapping a heavy scarf from around his neck. This winter of 1979 was a very cold and very snowy one, even for cold and snowy Pittsburgh.
"Ron, what are you doing here?" Ron had never been over to see Justin at work before, although he occasionally dropped him off there before he went on to the offices of Prisoners' Legal Defense.
"Justin, I was over at the office when I got a call from James Crossley in New York," said Ron, his voice rising in excitement.
"James Crossley?" Justin frowned. Then he realized who Ron was talking about. "The literary agent? The one who's trying to sell Brian's book?"
Ron nodded. He almost couldn't get the words out that he wanted to say. So he sat down in the booth opposite Justin and stared at the kid pointedly.
It was funny, but when Ron got the news that morning his first reaction was to run over here and tell Justin. Because he knew that Justin was the person who would want to know the most. The person who would care the most -- after Ron himself, of course.
"Crossley had two publishing houses bidding for Brian's book, Lewis-Fisher and Company and Langford House," Ron explained. "And they finally came to an agreement this morning. Crossley called me immediately to let me know."
Justin's mouth fell open. "It's really going to be a book? Oh my God! We have to call Brian and tell him right now!"
"I know, kid," said Ron. "But the only way is through Horvath. I've already called Stanton and asked for a meeting with the warden this afternoon. I'll be driving out there right after lunch."
"I want to go!" Justin asserted. "Maybe we'll get to see Brian! And even talk to him."
"I doubt that," said Ron. "Horvath is still pissed off about the whole manuscript and the way it was smuggled out of Stanton."
"I know," Justin admitted. "Amy Carver got fired over it. And she lost her job at the community college, too. But she's working as a writing instructor at Carnegie Mellon now. Wait until she hears about this! She'll freak out!"
"Listen, Justin," said Ron. He reached over and grabbed the kid's hand, trying to calm him for a moment before he told him the final bit of news. "There's one other thing."
"What's that?" asked Justin, suspiciously. He pulled his hand away from Ron's.
"The advance. That's what the bidding war was all about. Who would offer the best book deal -- and the biggest advance. That's the money that the publishing company gives the author up front before the book is published. The assumption is that if the book is a success, they'll easily make up that money in their share of the profits."
"So -- did Brian get an advance?" Justin felt uneasy about this. Before it had been about Brian's life and his story. But suddenly it seemed all about business. And money.
"Yes," Ron said, taking a deep breath. "He'll be getting an advance. One hundred thousand dollars. It's one of the largest advances ever offered to an unknown writer for a non-fiction book. Which means that the winning publishing company, Lewis-Fisher and Company, will be promoting the hell out of it. They expect it to be a bestseller, kid. And they expect to make a lot of money. Which means that Brian will make a lot of money, too."
Justin felt dizzy. A hundred thousand dollars! He couldn't even imagine that amount! He knew that his own father, who was quite successful, didn't make anywhere near that much money in a whole year and now Brian had made that much in a day! Or he had spent his entire life making it, depending on your point of view.
"But... but Brian is still in prison!" said Justin. "All the money in the world isn't going to do him any good while he's in the joint."
"Now don't worry at all, kid," Ron soothed. "I'm going to take care of anything. We'll put the money in the bank for when he gets out. And with that kind of cash, we can afford to get Brian the best representation possible if -- when! -- Brian gets a new trial. We have to think of the ways that the money can benefit Brian. And they best way to use it to get him out. And he's going to get out, Justin. Believe me!"
Justin stared at Ron, hoping against hope. "I want to believe you, Ron, but it's hard. It's so fucking hard!"
"I know, kid." Ron reached out and took the boy's hand again, squeezing it.
Justin had hands very much like Jennifer's, Ron thought. Strangely strong and broad for such a pampered little WASP. His shirtsleeves were rolled up and a drift of golden hair went up his arms. Justin's arms and legs were surprisingly furry, while his chest was very smooth. Ron wondered briefly if his ass was that smooth, too, but he quickly pushed that thought out of his mind. He had enough on his plate as it was!
"What do we do now?" asked Justin. "What can I do?"
"Sit tight," Ron urged. "While we wait for the right moment to make the next move."
Posted June 30, 2005.