A Con’s Gambit

           The credit for the hubbub was due to the aluminium dishes across the hall, in the hands of murderers, rapists, thieves and con-men, who could barely keep their senses in check, while committing the crime. The meal was not anymore banal than the vapid grey walls that drank the whites from the lights, keeping the monotony of depression within the prison walls alive.

“Two months are up,” whispered Jake, without lifting his gaze from his plate. The listener knew he was being talked to, yet his reaction was absent. “Are we ready, Stuart?”

The deep blue eyes, had a fiery essence to it, barely repressed by the cunning smile that accompanied it. Stuart leered at Jake. “Yes, we are, Jake. I hope you have prepped Mike for this, too.”

“Absolutively, man. I trust in your plan, man. You are a nice guy, but there is nothing like being too cautious, am I not right? So I ask again – is your plan foolproof? Because I’d hate to be caught in the act, and get incarcerated. I’ve heard life in prison is worse than my wife’s chicken soup, and I have eaten that soup and I have been incarcerated; the comparison is only fair.”

“We need to get him to meet up at the yard today. Spread the word. His freedom is near.”

At the yard, the heat did little to energize the labourers, but did largely to deprive them of it. Only if life were as easy as the Shawshank Redemption, Jake thought. Mike huddled up with Stuart and Jake under a shade at the edge of the yard. Mike was a portly man, so much that his belly engendered a large shadow underneath.

“Yo, man. So, we plan to do it tonight, at 23:50. You have the watch safe with you, don’t you? Do you need us to reiterate the procedure?”

“I have the watch and negative, I am confident I will pull this off. My cue will be when I receive the key to my cell tonight. I unlock the cell quietly, without attracting attention, and march to my left, until the end of the row, turn left, towards the cabin of the prison officers. At midnight, the shift changes, and in an orderly fashion, the new officers replace the existing ones. One officer who guards the door will be replaced, too. I have to climb up the wall, plug myself between the two walls with my limbs outstretched and catch the new officer that comes out of that door unawares.”

Jake’s cynicism over Mike’s ability to accomplish the athletics was unrestrained.

“Ha Ha, very funny, Jake. I train cheerleaders for my living.” His gaze shifted at Stuart, now. “If you know what I mean,” he said with a wink.

“Get back to the damned plan!” You sick fuck, Stuart wanted to add.

“Now, I won’t have time to bide, as I’ll have to make the move before the fallen officer is found. Retreating back, walking past the corner through the yard where we are standing right now. It is on me to cross this yard unnoticed. The lights and the guards will notice squat when I make the moves,” he gestured in a ballet move. “At 00:20 sharp, the barbed wires up the guard walls would be deactivated, and will stay the same for a minute, which is my window to make the escape.”

Jake could not hold it back. “Mike, you weigh a hundred kilos and you are barely 5 and a half. I hope you are not overestimating your ability.”

“You don’t trust me.”

“You’re darn right, I don’t. I’d trust better on a dog who claims that he can talk.”

“How about a dog that sniffs and fucks your butt?”

Jake pulled a punch at Mike before Mike’s mouth shut. He fell down instantly, pulled himself up in a jiffy, with movements agile and quick. Stuart knew for certain that Mike would pull this off.

“23:50,” said Stuart, and left along with Jake. “You head to the location I asked you to.”

“If I had a million in my pocket, I’d wager them all on a fiasco that is waiting in the dark only to come out and laugh at us.”

“Enough of your pessimism, Jake,” barked Stuart in a repressed grunt. “I had enough. This will not fail. Your job is to facilitate the key to his cell, on time – not before, not after, on time.”

“Do you rather want to say that this must not fail?”

Stuart had the fire in his eyes all over again. “This will not fail,” he said with sheer deliberation, making sure that the argument is pulled to a halt at that instant.

“How prepared is Tim?”

“I wrote a code for him on the backside of the book that I lent him. That was the only communication that I have had with him. He knows that this must happen tonight. All he has to do is code it on the main computer, and keep it running for exactly a minute, feigning malice in the Head Officer’s computer. He is the IT guy, this must not be a challenge for him. At least not the kind that he cannot handle.”

“Head Officer’s computer?” Jake had his head blown up. His cheeks had turned red. “This is your fuckin’ plan, man? How do you believe that the Head Officer is going to ask for the IT guy at fuckin’ midnight? And tonight?”

Stuart smiled.

Tim’s eyes were swollen, not for the sleepiness, but for the lack of it. He was anticipating a summoning from the Head Office, expecting a solution for the failure of the computer to turn on. They were oblivious to the fact that the problem was a creation of Tim, himself, that he had planted on the computer a fortnight ago. Now was a chance for him to plant the code on the computer and facilitate Mike’s escape. A broad bridge to cross, but what was tough was imminent.

A familiar face stopped by at Stuart’s cell the very next day. “It was you, was it not?” the guard asked Stuart through the vertical bars that separated them.

Stuart spoke not a word for a few moments. His eyes calm as an ocean. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“A computer code, which deactivated the electric barbed wires last night facilitated Mike’s escape. Rings a bell?”

“Kind of. Sounds like poor security to me.”

“Listen to me, Stuart. That you are not a killer, but that you participated in a ploy to kill someone is enough of a reason for you to stay in jail, but if you are caught –”

“I won’t be caught. Not even if you rat me out to your masters.”

The guard stood there in silence, staring at Stuart in despair. “You know you do not deserve to rot in this cell for far too long. Why are you risking a longer term?”

“I am not risking anything. Even if he was to be caught last night, he’d not rat me out. I have a leash on him, that enforces discipline, instills obedience.”

Long fingers of the sun illuminated the prison cell, further illuminating the smile on Stuart’s countenance.

“Stuart, you have a daughter for God’s sake. Don’t you love her enough to want to go back to her sooner than soon?”

The words brewed a storm in an otherwise composed weather, uprooting the composure off Stuart’s face and wreaking havoc within him. He stomped up to the prison bars and grunted with all the strength he could gather. “I am doing all this only for her, do you understand?”

The sudden upsurge of emotions choked the guard’s words at his throat.

“Do you understand, I ask?” Stuart bellowed again, not truly expecting an answer. “Do you know how it feels like to have your daughter raped in broad daylight? Do you know how deep a scar like this can go on her life? Do you, officer?”

The guard felt the small hairs standing up on the back of his neck. Realization arrived at him gently, with the words that Stuart spoke.

“I am doing all this for her, goddammit. What do you know about this escape, eh?”

“That you freed a guilty man, charged of rape.” Cognizance hit him like a truck at full speed. “You,” the guard whispered, and choked. His eyes wide as a planet, hairs stood up as in fear. “You did not free him. You… you freed him.”

“Yes, officer. That is exactly I did. I rid this planet of a scumbag sooner than this frail system of justice could have. With the kind of money that he claimed he swam in, I’d rather eat him up before he was granted bail. And then what? Have another girl abused by his monstrosity? It does not take a scientist to learn that I have committed homicide, but given a chance, I’d do it again, officer. I’d fork that motherfucker’s eyes out alive for the life that he has decided for my little angel. Tell on me, get me hanged, I am telling you I would die in peace, knowing that I have acquired vengeance on my daughter’s abuser and there will be one less son of a bitch out there who’d act that act again.”

A heavy voice came out of the officer’s mouth. “Where is he now?”

“The last cabin on the banks. You’d have enough evidence to identify him.”

The officer walked away, with a confluence of morality and law at his heart. His footsteps sounded as weighty as his heart. For the rest of  Stuart’s term, he never saw that officer again.

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