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February brought the flu into the Quad.
Dr. Caputo had been hoping to vaccinate as many of the inmates as possible before the expected outbreak hit, but there had been cutbacks in the state budget for prisons the previous year and the money never turned up.
Em was working double shifts in the Hospital Wing. Besides all of the sick elderly patients in the geriatric ward, the regular ward was flooded with men from both the East and South Wings who had the flu. Eventually Dr. Caputo and Dr. Gomez had to send most of these men back to their cells because there weren't enough beds for even the sickest patients. The tiers were filled with the sounds of coughing and sneezing and soon the C.O.'s were coming down with it, too.
"Emmett!" shouted a harassed Dr. Gomez. "Please call Dr. Caputo over to geriatrics."
Em held her head and sighed. She was about ready to drop. She'd worked three straight shifts and there was no end in sight.
"Is there something I can get you, Doc?" asked Em. Dr. Gomez and Dr. Caputo hadn't left Stanton for the past three days and they were exhausted and irritable.
"No," said Dr. Gomez. "But there's an old man over there who isn't going to last much longer. He's one of the last of the old lifers."
"Oh," Em said sadly. "You don't mean Ralph do you?"
"Yes," Dr. Gomez nodded. "I don't think the old man has any family at all. He hasn't had a visitor for as long as anyone can remember."
"Poor old thing!" said Em. And she went to look for Dr. Caputo.
Em found the doctor over on the first tier of the East Wing. He was checking each cell to see exactly how sick the inmates were. The worst cases would have to be moved to the Hospital Wing and space found for them somewhere, probably in the hallways. The biggest problem on the tiers was that if one man became sick, then his cellmate caught it, too. There was simply no way to get away from the infection. And hooked-up couples who didn't cell together were passing the flu to each other and then passing to their cellmates. And the C.O.'s were carrying it from tier to tier, wing to wing.
"God damn it!" cried Dr. Caputo as Em caught up with him coming out of a cell. "I told Horvath that we needed that vaccine! But we're at the bottom of the priority list. No one gives a damn if a bunch of prisoners get sick. This is a travesty!"
The only reason that the Hospital staff were still on their feet was because Dr. Caputo had brought a small supply of flu vaccine over from County General and given it to himself, Dr. Gomez, and all of the nurses and orderlies. Otherwise they would have been in very deep trouble at Stanton Correctional.
"I've been wanting to ask you something, Emmett," said Dr. Caputo as they walked back to the Hospital Wing. "How much longer do you have before you're up for parole?"
"That's easy! Exactly eight months and three days," said Em. "Do you want me to be more specific than that?"
Dr. Caputo smiled for the first time in days. "No, that's fine. I was wondering what you were planning to do once you got out?"
"Not what I was doing before!" Em vowed. "I'm walking the straight and narrow from now on, Doctor C. I swear to God!"
"I'm sure you are, Emmett," said Dr. Caputo. "Otherwise I wouldn't be recommending you for a new training program at the local community college. It's a practical nursing program. If you're interested it would mean attending classes over there a few times a week and also working here with the regular nurses, learning what you can on the job."
"Classes? Me, take classes?" Em stopped in her tracks. "You aren't kidding about this, are you, Doctor C.?"
"No, I'm not, Em," the doctor replied. "It's an experimental program and I think you're a good candidate for it. You'll be getting out soon and I think you have a real aptitude for nursing."
"Would I really be going out of the Quad?" Em asked in disbelief. "Would I have to be handcuffed over there?"
"No, not at all," said Dr. Caputo. "You could wear your regular clothes and not have to deal with the transport jumpsuit or any of that crap. A C.O. would take you over, wait for you, and then bring you back after class. The other students don't even have to know that you're from Stanton."
"I don't know what to say!" Em almost felt like she was going to cry. "Do you realize what this could mean to me?" But then Em hesitated. "You know, Doctor C., I never finished high school. Does that disqualify me?"
"Not at all," said Dr. Caputo. "This is considered a vocational program. But it will be a start for you, Emmett. Perhaps later you could train for a job as an x-ray technician or specialize in a certain area of care. When you finish this program, you'll have a certificate. And I can easily find you a job in Pittsburgh when you get out, if that's what you'd like."
"Yes!" Em cried. "I'd like that! I can do it, Doctor C. I really can! And I won't let you down."
"Good," said the doctor. "As soon as this damn flu season is over I'll arrange it with Warden Horvath."
The two reached the geriatric ward. Most of the men there were so sick and old that they hardly coughed anymore. Instead, they made weak wheezing noises. Em shuddered to hear that and crossed herself. It reminded her of the death rattle. When her grandmother died Em had heard that hollow sound right before the old lady breathed her last.
Ralph was in a corner bed. He was lying very still.
Dr. Gomez came over and shook his head. "He's been asking to see Ron."
"Ron?" Dr. Caputo frowned. "Ron who?"
"I think he means Ron Rosenblum," said Em. "Ron used to come and visit Ralph from time to time."
"Yes," said Dr. Gomez. "That's what I thought, too. I told the old guy that Ron was outside now, but he forgets and asks for him again. I don't know what else to say to him."
"How much longer does he have?" asked Dr. Caputo.
Dr. Gomez shrugged. "He's only just hanging on. He was ill before, but this is a knock-out punch for an old man like him. His chart says that he's 81. He's been in the Quad since 1958."
"Over 20 years," muttered Dr. Caputo as he glanced over Ralph's chart. "Well, I'm certainly not going to call Ron Rosenblum back to this prison just to see this old man." The doctor remembered the unpleasant run-ins he'd had with Rosenblum when his former punk, Kinney, was in County General. "I doubt he'd want to bother anyway."
"If I may make a suggestion?" said Em. "Maybe Brian could speak to him? If old Ralph knew Ron, then he must know Brian, too."
"I thought Mr. Kinney wasn't communicating these days," Dr. Caputo questioned. He'd looked in on Kinney a couple of times and, frankly, he was pretty close to being a candidate for the Psycho Ward.
"Well, he is -- and he isn't," said Em. "But in this case, I think he will. I think Brian may want to talk to old Ralph."
On the third tier of the East Wing almost every cell had a man down with the flu. And Brian, although he was still living alone, hadn't escaped the epidemic.
"Bri Baby," said Em, rattling the door. "Open up, honey."
"Fuck off," said Brian weakly. "I'm sick."
"Everybody is sick, darling!" Em reminded him. "I've brought you some aspirin and juice. Now, will you open the door, please?"
Brian stumbled over and unlocked the door, letting Emmy inside.
"This place is a sty, Bri Baby!" said Em, looking around. "See what happens when your little maid doesn't come around to clean up after you?"
"Who gives a fuck?" groaned Brian, kicking some dirty clothes out of the way.
Most of Brian's packages and letters were still untouched, but Em noticed that the recent mailings from Justin -- the ones containing his drawings -- had been opened and the pictures were taped up on the walls.
Brian slunk back down onto the bottom bunk, holding his head in his hands. He looked thin and jittery, and his eyes were bleary.
"Why don't they just shoot all of us, Em? This is fucking ridiculous! I've never felt like this before -- and I'm not the only one."
"I know, honey," said Em. "You should go over to the South Wing. It's even worse over there! And there's not much we can do. Here." Em handed Brian the aspirin and the cup of juice. "This won't cure you, but it certainly won't hurt."
Brian sighed and took the aspirin, chasing the tablets with the juice. "Thanks, Em. I'm sorry I was such a bitch."
"I'm used to it, Bri Baby," Em conceded. "But now that I'm here, I have a little request."
"I should have known," Brian huffed. "No one in this hellhole does anything without wanting something in return. Even you, Emmett!"
"It's not like that, Brian," said Em, grandly. "I want you to come over to the Hospital and talk to someone."
"Dr. Caputo was already over here yesterday to see if I was still alive," Brian replied. "I told him to fuck off, too."
"I don't want you to talk to Doctor C., honey." said Em. "I want you to talk to old Ralph. He's been asking for Ron. They keep telling him that Ron was paroled, but he keeps asking anyway. He's dying, in case you're interested."
Ralph. One of Ron's informants. The old man had been in failing health for a couple of years. Brian rubbed his red eyes.
"Give me a few minutes while I get cleaned up," he said finally.
Em noticed how slowly Brian was moving as they headed for the Hospital Wing. Slowly and painfully. But at least he was walking. At least he was out of his cell. And talking. That was progress. Em truly believed that Bri Baby had turned a corner.
"Jesus," said Brian, as they walked into the crowded main ward. "Can you cram any more guys in here?"
"There are more in the side wards," said Em, grimly. "And in the hallways, too. Dr. Gomez was talking about transferring some of them over to the Chapel because there was no more space in here."
Brian shook his head. "If I wasn't sick already, this would make me sick."
"I know, honey," said Em. "Come on. This way."
Em led Brian up the stairs to the geriatric ward. But Brian remembered. He went directly over to the bed where old Ralph had been confined for the past three years.
"Hey, Ralph," said Brian, softly. "How's tricks?"
"Ronnie?" rasped the elderly inmate. "Where've you been?"
"Ron got out, Ralph," Brian reminded him. "He's in Pittsburgh."
But the old man didn't seem able to process that information. "Ronnie, I'm glad you came. I've been looking for you."
Brian turned to Em. "He doesn't know what's going on, Emmett. It's pointless to try to talk to him."
"Then why don't you humor him, Bri Baby?" Em suggested. "If that will make him happy."
Brian shrugged. "What the hell? Okay, Ralph, I'm here. Is there anything I can get you?"
"Naw," breathed the old man. "I got everything I need. But I have to know. I been worried about it. Did you find him? Did you find the kid?"
Brian paused. "What kid? Who do you mean, Ralph?"
"The one you were looking for all over the joint. Did you find him over in the South Wing? In the low-riders' tip?"
Brian recoiled. "Jesus," he said. He glanced at Em, who seemed to be at a loss. "Yeah, Ralph. I found him. In... in the low-riders' tip."
"I told you so, Ronnie," the old man wheezed. "Hiding him in plain sight. You thought it was the warden who had him in Protective Custody. But I told you the real deal. Those scuzzy bastards took the kid. But what are you going to do now?"
"I... I don't know, Ralph," said Brian, carefully. "What do you think I should do?"
"Con 'em, Ronnie. That's what you do best." The old man licked his lips. "The bikers'll never let him go any other way. You gotta play 'em. Get 'em in your debt. It's the only way. Then you can take the kid and there's nothing they can do about it."
"Why would I want to do that, Ralph? What would I do with... with a kid?" Brian asked.
"Save him," said the old man, simply. "You can do that one thing." Then Ralph smiled. "You're a selfish bastard, Ronnie. I know your type. You never do nothing that doesn't benefit yourself. Nothing that you don't get a payback for. But this is something that will help somebody else. And you'll get your payback, Ronnie. Some day you'll get it. Maybe it'll actually save you to save that kid."
"Maybe so," said Brian, somberly. "Maybe you're right, Ralph."
"I'm tired," said the old man. "You come back and tell me when you get the kid, okay? You won't regret it, Ronnie. You'll see." Then Ralph closed his eyes and dozed.
"What was he talking about, Bri?" asked Em.
"I'm not certain. But I always thought that Ron stumbled over me accidently when he was working with Cisco's men on their legal issues," said Brian. "We never talked about... about why Ron did it, other than the fact that he needed an assistant in the Law Library. That's what he told me."
"Sounds like there was more to it than that. Unless old Ralph is imagining things," said Em.
"I don't think so," Brian replied. "He seemed adamant about the whole thing. Ron always used to say that Ralph knew everything that went on in the Quad. That's what made him Ron's best source of information. It sounds like Ron was looking for me for a while. Like he was trying to find me in the Quad. And Ralph told him where I was. That's when Ron set out to get me. For whatever purpose he had in mind."
"Maybe it was just like old Ralph said," Em replied. "To help someone else. To save someone just because he could."
"Maybe," said Brian. "But that's not usually Ron's way." Brian put his hand on his forehead. "I think your aspirin is working, Em. I don't feel as hot as I did."
"Come on, honey," said Em. "I'll get you some tea and then you hustle your butt back up to bed and rest, okay?"
"Okay," Brian agreed.
They headed down to the staff breakroom. "One thing, Bri," said Em. "I know that Ralph is a lifer, but Dr. Caputo says he's always been a model inmate. A quiet, easy-going guy. What was he in for? What did he do to get a life sentence? It doesn't say on his chart."
"I know," said Brian. "Ron told me. He was in for murder, Emmett. He killed his wife in a fit of jealous rage. He got life for it back in the late 1950's. And that sentence looks like it's about to be fulfilled."
"Oh my," said Em. "Well, you never can tell about a guy, can you?"
"No," said Brian. "You can never tell."
"I don't see why we should make any deals with the PLD," said Matthews from the Prosecutor's Office.
They were sitting in a private room in an unmarked building near the courthouse. A building where deals were sometimes made. And where promises were sometimes broken.
"Because, Mr. Matthews," replied Julie, serenely. "We may have the ability to deliver Kirk Bradley to you. He may be willing to plead guilty as long as he's sent to a medium security Federal prison on a reduced charge. And he may be willing to finger the other members of the Penn Bombers cell. And I mean the REAL members of the cell. The ones who actually planned and carried out the break-in and the planting of the explosive devices. Unlike Brian Kinney, who knew nothing about what was going to happen, but who was nevertheless convicted of a laundry list of crimes."
"We've been over this with you before, Miss Finch," said Matthews. "Kinney was convicted fair and square. He was there. He drove the car. As far as we're concerned he's as guilty as anyone."
Julie shook her head in disdain. "We also have statements from two members of the Prosecutor's Office back in 1968 who worked on the case against Kinney. Both are now in private practice. They are quite troubled by the Kinney case and they've given us some very interesting information. Such as the fact that the lead man on the case knew that there was very little evidence against Kinney other than his admission that he drove his boyfriend, Glenn Fitzgerald, a.k.a., Kirk Bradley, and Glenn's friends to the building and then drove them back." Julie leaned forward. "Everyone working that case knew that the cell had set the kid up. Kinney didn't even know the names of the people involved. All he knew were their nicknames. He didn't know that Fitzpatrick was really Kirk Bradley. The kid didn't know shit."
"Ignorance is not innocence, Miss Finch," said Matthews, with annoyance. "It makes no difference whether he knew or not."
"Doesn't it?" said Julie, coolly. "Yes, Brian Kinney was an accessory to the crime in that he drove the car. He admitted that readily. The kid told you the truth. He gave you what he knew. But you couldn't catch Bradley or the rest of them. You couldn't even get a warm sniff of any of them." Julie turned to stare at the other man sitting at the table. A grim-faced man in a dark suit. "And neither could your men, could they? They've had over 10 years and they've come up empty. That doesn't look too good for the Feds, does it?"
The Fed glared at Julie. This bitch had Kirk Bradley in her back pocket. He was certain of it. Sure, they had looked for the Penn Bombers when the case was fresh. But who the hell cared about that shit now? Except for this fucking woman and the Prisoners' Legal Defense. Julie Finch and her rag-tag bunch of paralegals were determined to make them all look like idiots.
"Kinney is in on 20-years-to-life," said Julie. "I'm sure you've read his work in 'The New Yorker.' It's quite eye-opening. And it's garnering a lot of attention to his case."
"I don't have time to read fantasy, Miss Finch," said the Fed, sourly.
"If you think it's fantasy, then wait until you hear what Kirk Bradley has to say." Julie smiled slightly. "Most of the Penn Bombers aren't even in hiding. Do you know that? They are so certain that you'll never catch up with them, that you'll never even find out their names, that some of them aren't even using aliases anymore. Kirk was the most paranoid one of the bunch. That's because Kinney knew him the best and was able to describe him in detail. But the others -- they were more shadowy figures. Kinney saw them a few times, but he didn't really know them. And he only knew Bradley -- Glenn Fitzpatrick -- because Bradley seduced him. And why did he seduce the kid? Why do you think, Mr. Matthews?" Julie asked the assistant prosecutor.
"Because he was a fag?" huffed Matthews.
"No," Julie answered. "Because that was the best way to set Kinney up. To make him do anything Bradley wanted him to do. Kinney was only a kid. An infatuated kid. But he was all you guys had. And you nailed him to the fucking wall."
"What is your point with all this, Miss Finch?" Matthews asked impatiently.
Julie looked the man in the eye. "You can have Bradley. He's willing to turn himself in on the terms that I've outlined." Julie opened a folder on the table in front of her. "But we want something in return."
"Let me guess?" sniffed Matthews. "The kid?"
"Yes," said Julie. "We want Kinney. We want you to reduce the charges and release him on the time he's already served. In return he will promise not to sue your ass. He will promise not to stir up any more shit to add to the mess that's already brewing in the Prosecutors' Office in the wake of James Stockwell's nasty downfall. Things like charging Kinney with crimes that you knew he wasn't guilty of. Piling everything but the kitchen sink on him, as if he were some kind of criminal mastermind instead of a dupe of the real culprits."
"You're bluffing, Miss Finch," said Matthews, uneasily. He glanced over at the Fed, but that man's face was impassive.
"Have you read this?" Julie pushed a clipping across the table. "It's an editorial from the 'Pittsburgh Clarion' that was published after Brian Kinney's story came out in 'The New Yorker.' It suggests that he should have a new trial. And that the methods used to prosecute him should be investigated, along with the people who prosecuted him. This editorial thinks that the abuses in your office may go back much earlier than James Stockwell's regime. That there was something very rotten going on even in 1968."
"It's only rhetoric, Miss Finch," Matthews replied.
"Is it?" Julie raised her eyebrows. "Do you really want the press on your ass? Digging up dirt? Looking into internal affairs? Snooping around and asking questions going back 10 years? Especially when you know that they'll find irregularities. That they will find out how you railroaded Brain Kinney. Just like Kirk Bradley railroaded him. Bradley served him up on a silver platter, while the real Penn Bombers skipped away freely. And you guys bought that platter. So what do you think the press will say if they find out that Bradley is willing to talk? That he's willing to deal? And that he's willing to give up the other Penn Bombers? But that your office was too stubborn to see that real Justice was done."
"If you are harboring a known criminal, Miss Finch, it could go badly for you," the Fed said darkly.
"I'm not harboring anyone," said Julie. "I don't know where the guy is and that's a fact. You can hook me up to a lie detector and see for yourself. But it would sure make you all look stupid if Bradley showed up in some country who we didn't have an extradition treaty with and started taking potshot at both the Prosecutors' Office and the Feds." Julie closed her folder. "You guys had 10 years to find Bradley -- and we found him within months. How do you think that will look to the public, boys?"
"It's a dangerous thing to play games with law enforcement authorities, Miss Finch," said the Fed.
"And it's a crime when you put away people who aren't guilty of the things they are charged with!" Julie snapped. "So, do you want Bradley? And the others? Or don't you?"
The Fed caught Matthews' eye. This bitch was asking for trouble. But if she could really deliver Kirk Bradley and not make a fucking stink about the rest of it, then....
The Fed nodded to Matthews.
Matthews balked, but he knew when he was backed into a corner. This would be a huge score for the Feds. The only thing his office could hope for was that they didn't get fucked in the ass by another scandal. And after Stockwell, they couldn't afford another publicity nightmare.
"We want him, Miss Finch," said Matthews. "And if you want Kinney -- you can have him."
Julie stood up and the two men stood along with her. "I hope you both realize that I have this conversation on tape?" Julie tapped her briefcase.
"I assumed you would," said the Fed. "So do we."
"Good," Julie said. "We'll need to work out all of the details."
"Yes," said Matthews, sullenly. What the fuck? It was already out of his control.
Julie held out her hand and the Fed shook it. "Well, then, gentlemen -- it's a done deal."
Posted June 30, 2005.