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Even at two in the morning the cellblock in a maximum security penitentiary was never completely devoid of noise. The main lights were extinguished, the televisions and radios shut off, and the order for silence about the cellblock has been blared over the intercom. But it was never completely silent. You could still hear the graveyard shift guard with his radio turned down low as he paced up and down the row, the toilets flushing, tormented men crying out in their sleep, jacking off, coughing, sneezing, farting, sobbing.
Then there was the occasional cry of pain and anguish as an inmate decided to take himself out by slashing his wrists with a homemade shank but then couldn’t handle the pain of what he had just done to himself or the fear of what was yet to come.
Some nights, like tonight, you heard an inmate, almost always a fish, scream out “Mommy.” For some reason when a fish, fresh from the street, got turned out for the first time, he often called out for his “Mommy.”
Thad Jensen had heard grown men scream that out probably close to a hundred times since he had been locked down for his fifteen years. Fifteen years today since it was past midnight already. Today was the day. He be getting his walking papers in about a dozen hours. No parole guidelines for him to follow, he had done his whole bit.
From an early age the locals always said that he was a bully. A bad kid. A no good punk destined to go nowhere but jail or the cemetery.
The locals had been right.
He was just seventeen years old the night he committed the crime that got him sent up. Already drunk one Friday night on the old man‘s vodka, he had walked into a convenience store and tried to waltz out with a twelve pack of beer. The clerk, a pensioner in his sixties, had chased Thad into the parking lot, where Thad who was big for his age, had broken the clerk’s nose and jaw with a series of brutal punches. After a witness called in the crime, a high speed chase ensued which ended with Thad face down on the pavement and his hands cuffed behind him, his parent’s car totaled against a telephone pole.
He was tried as an adult and was given a sentence of fifteen years but would be eligible for parole in four if he behaved while serving his sentence. He had no reaction to the sentence. He showed no remorse.
And he sure as shit didn’t behave while serving his sentence.
Because of his age he was sent to the St. Cloud Reformatory where he learned that since he was white he was now a minority . He was quickly recruited by an Aryan prison gang, and because of his size, which would become greatly enhanced by hours spent on the weight pile, he became a valuable enforcer. Young naďve Thad bought the wannabe Nazi’s bullshit rhetoric hook, line, and sinker, and soon he was sporting a swastika on his chest and carrying around a bootleg copy of Mein Kampf, even though he didn’t understand a fucking word of it.
It didn’t take him long before he began to build a thick jacket with the prison administration. He was written up numerous times for assault, possession of narcotics and weapons, disrespect to officers, and dozens of other infractions. The day he reached his twenty first birthday, rather than being released on parole, he was shackled and transferred to the penitentiary at Stillwater where he was greeted with open arms by his fellow comrades. Stillwater Penitentiary was the turf of the white prison gangs. Thad was finally at home.
And that’s where twelve years later Thad Jensen found himself. On his final night in the joint he laid in his bunk and mentally reviewed his personal resume.
He had survived dozens of prison gang wars and uprisings. He had been stabbed. He had been shot (barely grazed but still shot) by a tower guard during a riot. He had been gassed and maced. He had spent months in the hole without letting the assholes break him. He was a high ranking lieutenant with the Aryans. And now he had fulfilled the terms of his sentence without the benefit of parole. He would walk out the gates a free man.
He was also thirty-three years old, had no home to go to, no family to speak of since they had all disowned him over the years, had the education of a mentally challenged fifth grader, and no idea what life outside these walls held for him. His counselor had managed to find him a room at a shelter upon his release along with a job at a aluminum can recycling plant. The job started at minimum wage.
Thad heard his cellmate stir in the bunk underneath him.
“Sounds like someone is getting it tonight.”
“Yea, it’s Tuesday. Fresh meat always gets brought in on Tuesdays.”
“I didn’t. They brought me in on a weekend.” replied his cellmate.
“Well, you’re a whole different fucking matter all together. You’re one of those high profile cases.”
His cellmate was indeed high profile and more. He possessed what inmates called a “freak” jacket. Timothy Logan had been a twenty-six year old mortuary sciences student who had been picked up for raping and killing a sixteen year old girl who was on her way home from a high school basketball game. What the police found when they tossed his apartment brought him semi-national attention.
Timothy had been interning at a Minneapolis funeral home where he worked the night shift. All by his lonesome. Turns out he liked it like that. When the police shook down his apartment after they picked him up for the murder, they found hundreds of nude photos of both dead females and males which had been taken at the funeral home. They also found several videos of him engaged in sexual intercourse with female stiffs.
Timothy’s attorney tried the insanity defense. It didn’t work, and after a sensational trial which was seemingly covered non-stop by the media, was found guilty late on a Friday afternoon. The county jail felt that they could not provide the security that Timothy required for his safety from his fellow inmates, so rather than waiting out the weekend he was transferred the following morning to the penitentiary.
In a bit of payback for all of his years of being a pain in the ass to them, the warden thought it might be a hoot to put a child raping murderer diagnosed with necrophilia, right into Thad’s cell, who had only six months left to serve. Thad was pissed behind belief at this show of total disrespect but he kept his mouth shut. He was just too goddamn short to bitch about it.
His first night inside, Timothy who was small of stature, had been cornered in the shower and turned out by a couple of black gangsters from St. Paul. He didn’t call out for his Mommy. He just took it.
And he took it for weeks until he finally broke down and asked Thad for protection. For a price of course, Thad could offer him protection against rival gangs and lone predators, but Timothy would still be required to take care of the members of Thad’s gang if they so desired. The fee was a weekly deposit from Timothy’s family into Thad’s inmate account.
But when Thad walked through those gates in a couple of hours, Timothy would be on his own. Their deal would be null and void.
“I’ve got a proposition for you, Thad.”
“And what the fuck can you offer me now? You know I don’t mess with jailhouse sissies. You think with a couple of hours left that I‘d want what you could give me? Shit! First thing I‘m gonna do when I get on the street is get me a good looking whore and nail her right through the mattress.”
“No, not that. Here’s the deal. If you can make a protection deal with your brothers for me. That is if they can guarantee my safety after your gone. I’ll turn you on to a score that’ll easily bankroll your first year on the street.”
His interest piqued, Thad sat up in his bunk. “What kind of score?”
Timothy got out of his bunk and took a seat on their communal toilet. “You make the deal to keep me safe and I don’t mean just safe from the other inmates, I mean no more getting punked by your brothers either. You get me two weeks of total protection to prove to me that you’re word is good and I’ll mail you directions to the easiest score you could imagine. I’ll even give you name of the fence so the whole deal will be cool for you.”
The graveyard shift guard, a rookie, stopped in front of their cell. “Shut the hell up in there and hit the sack or I’ll write both of your asses up.” Thad shot the finger to the guard who stood and glared at him for several moments but then moved on.
Timothy got up and walked to the front of the cell to make sure the guard hadn’t stopped to listen in on their conversation. He had already moved on down to the end of the cellblock.
“What to do you have to lose? I’m still locked up here and if I fuck you over I know what’s going to happen. So what do you say?”
“You‘re sure as hell gonna have to give me more information than that before I cut a deal to save your ass.”
“Just before I got busted I had to work on a old broad who died of a heart attack. Came from a rich family. Stinking fucking rich. For her funeral the family had her laid out wearing two gigantic diamond rings and a matching diamond necklace. Must be worth a fortune. Here’s the kicker. They buried them with her! They didn’t give a shit about ‘em. The funeral director tried to convince them to take them before we closed her box but they were adamant about burying the old bitch with them. So we did. I was planning on digging her up myself but I got arrested before I could.”
“And just what the hell does that have to do with me?”
“You guarantee my safety and I’ll mail you the name of the cemetery, the old broad’s name, and the number of her plot. All you have to do is dig up the old bitch and snatch the jewels. The fence will give you no problem, either. I’ve known the guy for years. I‘d imagine you‘ll clear at least 15K.”
He had already made his decision. He had nothing to lose but he tried to make it seem like he was in turmoil while he thought it over.
“All right. You got a deal. But I’ll tell you one thing. If this is some kind of a set up or I dig that stiff up and there’s nothing in that box but a bunch of bones. You’ll regret the fucking day you ever walked into my cell!”
“It’s no set up. It’s guaranteed. But how can I be sure that you won’t back out on the deal once you get the diamonds?”
Thad glared down at him. “Because I’m giving you my fucking word! How’s that? My word’s been good on the yard in this prison for twelve goddamn years so it‘s good enough for your worthless ass.”
“All right then. We’ve got a deal.” Timothy slid back on to his bunk.
Thad was so geared up he didn’t sleep a minute for the rest of the night. At breakfast he would clear the deal with his crew. It was to be hands off Timothy. But once he had the diamonds and had sold them, he’d be in contact. Then they could do to Timothy whatever their hearts desired.
By noon he had cleared out processing and was given a lift in a prison van down to the shelter. He started his new job the following morning. It was shit but he kept his mouth shut. He just had to gut it out for two weeks. With his meager prison savings he bought a city map, crowbar, flashlight, a cheap knockoff Buck knife, and a shovel. He wrapped the items in a plastic garbage bag and hid them in a crawlspace behind the shelter.
The time passed slowly. Life was torture for Thad on the outside. Inside he was a big man. A player. A convict. A man of respect. Outside he was just another minimum wage worker with a record. And the world was different. Confusing with it’s cash machines, Internet, cable television, computers, and SUVs. He spent his nights in his shitty little room drinking rotgut beer. And even though he was free from the constraints of parole, the second day at his new job he was given a quick visit by a couple of smart ass detectives from the Organized Crime/Gang unit. Just to let him know they’d be keeping an eye out for him.
The envelope arrived sixteen days after Thad had been released. Inside was the name of the cemetery, a map and grid number for the grave, and the name and address for the fence. So far Timothy was a man of his word. Too bad for him that Thad wasn’t.
That night he climbed out the window of his room, grabbed his tools, hotwired a old Chevy owned by another ex-con at the shelter, and drove carefully to the cemetery. His driver’s license had expired while in prison and his driving skills were a rusty as hell but he arrived at the cemetery without any problems. The gates were secured with a wrap around chain and an old padlock which was broken off easily with a few swings from the crowbar. He drove the Chevy in, closed the gates behind him, and wrapped the chain back around it.
Since he couldn’t read for shit it took about an hour to figure out the grid used to locate the grave. Then he wandered in circles for almost another hour before he finally stumbled on to it. The gravestone was fancy and looked expensive so that was a good sign. He stuck his shovel into the soil. It slid in like butter and he found the digging to be relatively easy. It had been a wet spring and the dirt came up in huge wet clumps.
After several hours of digging his shovel hit the vault. That’s were he ran into problems. The sealant glue on the vault must have been industrial strength and by the time he had broken the seal to the vault with the crowbar and muscled it open (Thank God for prison weight programs, the lid was heavy as a son of a bitch) it was almost dawn. He was exhausted and covered head to toe in mud.
Thad stuck the end of the crowbar into the lid of the casket. It popped open with a crack.
He turned his flashlight on and scanned over the body inside. The old girl inside was still in good shape. She almost looked alive. Timothy had done a good job. Thad had been expecting a skeleton or at least a rotting corpse with a funky stench but she was neither. Just a little musty. But Timothy, that child raping pervert, hadn’t been lying. The old lady was sporting two huge rocks on her fingers and a equally enormous one around her scrawny, chick neck. Thad giggled like a little kid as he pulled them off the body and climbed out the grave .
Time was running out. Thad had no idea when the grounds keeping crew would show up for work. So suddenly revived by the adrenaline pumping through him, he sprinted to the car, threw the diamonds inside, grabbed a change of clothes and a towel, and ran over to the groundskeeper’s tool shed. He quickly stripped down and hosed himself off. The water was freezing and the temperature was probably somewhere in the forties and it took all Thad had in him not to scream out. He toweled off the best he could and threw on the fresh set of clothes.
When he pulled out of the graveyard and on to the main road the morning commute traffic was light. He was almost home free!
It was still early morning, and the fence, who ran a pawnshop, wouldn’t be open until eight, so Thad parked the car in a alley down from the shop, put the diamonds in his jacket pocket, and walked over a couple of blocks to get some coffee and a couple of burgers at a White Castle.
Promptly at eight o‘clock, Thad walked into the shop. The geezer behind the counter was beyond ancient. Had to have been closed to ninety if he was a day. This was going to be a fucking breeze, thought Thad.
He peered up at Thad through thick, pop bottle lenses.
“Can I help you?”
“Yea, Timothy sent me.”
“Ah yes. You are Thad then. Timothy’s friend. Timothy called me from prison. Said that you would have some diamonds to sell. Timothy and I did a lot of business together. He knows I am always in the market for diamonds. Let me lock the door so we can conduct our business safely.” The old man flicked a switch on the counter. Thad jumped uneasily as a automatic bolt slammed home on the front door. It was the same sound made by an electronic prison gate.
“Ah, poor Timmy. Who would have thought a boy with such a bright future would be doing the horrible things he did. But… Anyway, let us see what you have.”
The old man’s eyes bulged and he gave an audible gasp when Thad placed the diamonds on to the counter. He had to hold back a grin. Obviously, the old fart liked what he saw.
“Whe..? Where? Where did you get these?” The old man had picked up the necklace and was examining it closely. His shirtsleeve had pulled down and Thad noticed blurred blue numbers tattooed on his wrist.
“Does it matter? Do you want them or not? I don’t have time to fuck around all day.”
The old man reached under the counter, pulled up a strong box, set it on the counter and reached inside. But it wasn’t a fistful of hard cold cash that he pulled out. Fuck no! The crazy old bastard had a German Luger in his shaking hands and he was aiming it right at Thad.
“What the hell is this? Have you lost your fucking mind?”
Thad could not comprehend this unprecedented turn of events. Here he was, the meanest motherfucker that had walked the yard of the toughest goddamn prison in the state for the last fifteen years, and then this dried up turd has the balls to pull a piece on him for no good fucking reason! Did he think he was going to rip him off? After all his hard work? He better think fucking again!
Thad reached his hand around to his back pocket, pulled out his Buck knife and snapped it open with a flick of his wrist.
“Now you listen to me you old basta…”
The shot hit Thad high on the shoulder and knocked him straight down to the floor. It felt like a horse had kicked him. He rolled over to his hands and knees and tried to get up but the pain was incredible. His breathing was ragged and a reddish, foamy froth was running out of his mouth and pooling on the floor underneath him. The old man had shuffled around the counter and was coming towards him. Thad saw his knife about five feet away and started to crawl towards it.
“Your rob my daughter’s grave and come in here and try to sell me her jewels, you piece of shit! The same diamonds my wife smuggled out of Germany when she was fleeing the fucking Nazis!”
Thad knew he wouldn’t be able to get to his knife. He stopped crawling and tried to look over his good shoulder at the old man. His daughter? What the hell was he…?
“What? Oh shit! Oh fuck! Man, it wasn’t me! It wasn’t my idea! It was that goddamn Tim! He set me up on the score! It was T..”
Even at two in the morning the cellblock in a maximum security penitentiary was never completely devoid of noise. The main lights were extinguished, the televisions and radios shut off, and the order for silence about the cellblock has been blared over the intercom. But it was never completely silent. You could still hear the graveyard shift guard with his radio turned down low as he paced up and down the row, toilets flushing, tormented men crying out in their sleep, jacking off, coughing, sneezing, farting, and sobbing.
But laughter was something you rarely heard late at night in prison. But tonight was much different. One inmate was laughing. Laughing uncontrollably. Laughing hysterically. Laughing to the point where the tears rolled down his face and the rookie graveyard shift guard had to call the goon squad to haul his crazy ass down to segregation before they had a goddamn riot on their hands.
Since he had been locked up it had always been the inmate’s habit to read his mail late at night when it was more quiet. So tonight Timothy Logan sat on his bunk and read the Minneapolis Star Tribune news clipping that his mother had sent him. It was about an ex-convict who was shot and killed while pathetically trying to rob a respected local pawnshop owner with a knife.
And he laughed and he laughed and he laughed.
Scott L. Anderson