Phillip – Part Five of Five

Phillip – Part Five
The Police are only just arriving and breaking their way into the front of the casino. We manage to blend in with the traffic still fleeing the casino. I pull out a little faster than the other car and make sure I lose visual contact with them. The demo man doesn’t notice what I’m doing. He’s just relieved we made it out of there. I pretend I’m relieved with him, as though the most dangerous part of this was over. No, I was almost there, but not there yet. I take off down a side street, then break away in to the country.
The demo man questions me, “Where are we going . . . ? I don’t recognize any of this.”
“I’m trying to get out of the city. It’s too easy for us to be tailed and not even know it. Out here, tails are easy to spot. Plus, this way is a little faster,” I lied.
The demo man buys it, “I’m all for getting back to the safe house faster.”
But we didn’t get back there faster. We didn’t get there at all. I drove further out in to the country and got off the road entirely for a few miles.
“What is this? Some kind of secret entrance?” the demo man jokes.
“Not quite,” I lie, “just a way around so we know we can’t be followed.”
We drive for another few miles and then I stop the car and get out.
The demo man looks at me as I get out, “What are we doing?”
“Get out,” I say, “now.”
He obliges. I quickly draw my revolver on him.
“Woah!” he freaks out and holds his hands out in protest, “Woah! Phillip, just relax!”
I grab some rope out of the back seat and throw it at his feet while keeping my revolver leveled at him.
“Tie your hands,” I say.
“What is this?”
“Just tie your hands!”
“Is this about your take? ‘Cause listen, you can have my share if -“
My revolver interrupts him by propelling a bullet into the sky.
“I’m not messing around. Tie your hands.”
He grabs the rope and ties his hands together. I check the knot and tie it over again so there’s no chance of him escaping on his own.
“Now go stand by that tree,” I point with my revolver. He walks over without saying anything and stands with his back to the tree. I take the rope and tie him to to the tree.
“Phillip, you can’t be serious!” he cries.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt you,” I say to him calmly, “I just need you to stay here and be a landmark for me. Oh, I almost forgot,” I take a handkerchief out of my pocket, “no talking, screaming, or shouting for help.” I gag him with the handkerchief. He protests with several grunts, so I punch him in the face and knock him out. I walk back over to the car. With some effort, I manage to get the safe out of the back of the car and move it over to the tree where I tied up the demo man. I place it on the far side of the tree from the now unconscious demo man. I get back in the car and head toward the safe house to meet the others.
On my way back, I make one more stop by the workshop the syndicate had set up for me. Since we’re supposed to be pulling the job, it’s abandoned. All the equipment that was in there was moved out or thrown away. Save for one thing, of course. I grab my other copy of the safe from where I hid it under the garbage out back and throw it in the back of the car where the real safe was. There’s some concrete dust in the trunk from where we blew the real safe out of the wall. I grab some of it and cover the safe with it so it doesn’t look too new. I get back in the car and keep driving to the safe house.
As I get close to the safe house, I look at my watch. I’m about an hour late. They have to know by now that something is wrong. I pull over about a mile away and get out. I stand up and walk around to the other side of my car door. I really wasn’t looking forward to this part. I grab the handle on the door and whip it open it as quickly as I can, leaning into it with the side of my face. It slams into my jaw and jars my head. I fall over sideways from the impact, but I’m okay. As I lie on my side in the mud, I smear some on my shirt and my hands. I rip the right sleeve on my jacket. I touch the side of my face and look at my hand. Slamming the car door into my head has drawn blood.
That’ll help.
I get back in the car and drive the rest of the way to the safe house. The muscle and the inside man see me pull in and begin walking over to the car.
“What the hell happened?” They ask, still a distance away, “Where have you been?”
I throw the car door open and get on my feet. I start marching toward the inside man.
“How long you known that demo man, huh?”
“What?” he says, confused, “wait, where is he?”
I shove him and he stumbles backward. The muscle steps between us and holds his arms out to separate us as the inside man falls backwards.
“Did you know he was damn cop?!” I shout.
“What? What happened?” The muscle shouts.
I explain, “He was trying to get alone with me and the safe. He had me pull out in to the country, saying he knew a better, safer way back to the safe house. Once we were out of the city, he had us both get out. Then he told me I was under arrest and he jumped me. I found his badge in his pocket.” I pull the security officer’s badge out and toss it on the ground.
The muscle quickly turns on the inside man who is still lying on the ground. “You put a cop on our heist? Your trying to get all of us turned in?”
The inside man groans and stands up, “I didn’t know, I swear! I hardly knew the guy! Just knew his credentials. I didn’t know he was a cop!”
The Muscle shouts, “You almost blew the whole damn job!” and he shoves the inside man back down on the ground again.
“Alright, everyone, relax,” I say and I start pacing. “I think there’s a way out of this where we all get our take, our lives, and the syndicate doesn’t know we brought a cop on board.”
“Well, wait a minute, what did you do with the guy?” the inside man asks.
I give him a grave stare. “I shot him, what do you think I did! Alright listen, all we need to do is take the safe back to the syndicate, get our take, and when they ask where the demo man is, we’ll just say he took a bullet at the casino and we had to leave him there. They’re still getting their part of the take. They won’t miss a guy who wasn’t even a member, right?”
The muscle nods, “Phillip’s right. That sounds good. The syndicate be none the wiser. You’ve still got the safe?”
“Yeah,” I say, “It’s in the trunk.” I look at my watch. “Listen guys, it’s almost morning and I’m supposed to get out this morning. I need you guys to drop me off there and then once I’m out tomorrow I’ll hook up with you guys and we can wrap this thing up.”
“That sounds good,” the muscle says. I jump in his car and he drives me back to the prison. The third shift guards let me in off the record and takes me back to my cell. I get back in uniform and wash the mud off my face and hands. I lie down in bed and breathe a sigh.
Almost there.
Sunlight broke through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I roll over and look at the calendar I carved into the same wall.
It was Saturday.
And that catches us up to now, on the city square and leaving the police station. I walk away from the station and down a side street off the square. It’s night time and this side of the city is quiet now. I find a car parked on the side of the street and smash its window with brick. It only takes me a moment to get it started. I drive out of the city and into the country. It isn’t long until I find where I pulled off the road last night. I follow my tread marks in the grass. A tree comes up in my headlights. There’s a man tied to it.
I get out of my car and walk over to him. I take the handkerchief out of his mouth.
“Glad you’re still here,” I say with a smile.
He spits on my shoes. I punch him.
“These are my favorite shoes! They’re also my only shoes and they don’t fit, but they’re still my favorite shoes.” I look at him. “Did you do a good job guarding the safe for me?”
He looks at me confused. “The . . . safe?”
I walk around the far side of the tree and push it out into view. He begins to laugh.
“You’re a dead man, Phillip! When the syndicate finds out you ripped them off, you’re done for!”
“They won’t find out.” I smile. “See, this is the real San Marco safe, but I didn’t just make one copy; I made two. One to fool the police, that’s the one we put back in the wall, and one to fool the syndicate. That’s the one those idiots are waiting on me to crack. Only, I’m not going to crack it. The cops should be raiding their safe house for the safe now. They won’t find it, but they’ll still find enough evidence to incriminate everyone and bring the organization down. I got everyone’s hands dirty on this one.”
“How do the cops know where . . .”
“Because I told them, of course! I went to them and told them the whole plan for the heist. Of course, I left out the part where I was involved in it in any way.”
“They believed you? And they’re actually on their way to raid the syndicate now?”
“Of course they believed me! I had a perfect alibi. I’ve been locked in jail the last 10 years, remember? There’s no way I could’ve done it! Except I did, but that’s no the point.”
With some effort, I pick up the real San Marco safe and put it in the back of my car. Then I cut the rope binding the demo man to the tree with a knife. I place the knife in the demo man’s bound hands.
“I want you to count to one hundred, then cut your ropes. Then you’re free to go.”
I extend my hand toward his and we shake hands. I smile. He feigns a smile back.
Then he says, “What’s stopping me from just going to the syndicate and telling them everything you just told me?”
“I told them you were a cop and you attacked me to steal the safe. I also told them I shot you. I won’t make good on that claim, but if you come anywhere close to any of their hideouts, they will.”
I get in my car and close the door. I say to him, “If I were you, I’d go to the police and turn yourself in. Give them evidence. Confirm my story. That’s probably you’re safest play. They’ll be able to offer you protection. You can tell them I ripped them off too, if you want. At this point, it doesn’t really matter.”
“How do you know they won’t come after you, Phillip?”
“I’m more like a ghost than a man now. I haven’t had an address or a car or mail or relatives or anything for 10 years. I’m just a name on story. They can try to chase me, but they don’t have anything to chase. I’m already disappearing.”
I crank up the car and turn it around. I drive back toward the road and then onward to the highway. A big grin crept across my face. I had done it. That one last job that held my ticket to freedom. I had gotten out of prison, pulled off the job at the San Marco, stole the safe, disappeared, and dismantled the syndicate. It was a bit like when I got in prison in that I had all the time in the world, but it was different now. I had freed myself, not simply from prison, but from my past and from my revenge. I could do anything I wanted. I could go anywhere I wanted, and I had all the money I needed. I cranked up the radio and heard a song about Baja, California. That sounded great to me. I leaned back in my seat and rolled the window down.
And that was it.
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Phillip – Part Four

Phillip – Part Four

I suppose I owe you an apology. I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I didn’t lie to you earlier when I told you about how I wanted to leave a life of crime behind. I really do, but I needed to set the record straight first. I needed to do this one last job.

Here’s how everything really happened.

You remember when I told you that I was set-up? That was true. I was on a job with a team from the syndicate. They told me it was a safe cracking job, which is why they brought me along.

It wasn’t a safe cracking.

It was about seizing a high value target and holding him for ransom. I didn’t like doing ransom jobs because they usually got bloody, so the syndicate lied and brought me along. They just pointed me toward a safe near the entryway while they “covered me,” which meant they went and seized the target. The police showed up before I had the safe cracked, and took me in. There was no one covering me and no one spotting for them on my behalf. I didn’t even know they were here until they stormed the room and told me to freeze. On the way out, my hands tied behind my back, I saw my team leaving out the back of the building with a man who was blindfolded and tied; the target.

That’s when I knew it was a set up and I was the fall guy.

I tried to explain what happened at the station, but I said too much. They brought me in on charges of breaking and entering, but quickly added abduction. When I tried to point the police in the right direction to help myself or shorten my sentence, they didn’t turn anything up. I told you those men were more like ghosts. The police assumed I was feeding them false information to lead them on a goose chase, so they stopped giving me opportunities to help.

So that was it. I was stuck for the next 10 years. At least, it looked that way.

One night, I’m trying to fall asleep on my bed when I hear someone whispering my name from just outside my cell window. It was someone from the syndicate. He was there with a team. They were on the roof and he had rappelled down to my window. He was there the night I was caught. He said that the syndicate had a new job for me. In exchange for pulling this job and a few others, they would work to bust me out of prison early.

I said I wasn’t interested.

The man replied that if I didn’t accept, they would ensure my sentence would be lengthened to life. I reluctantly accepted their offer, but under the condition that instead of busting me out, they would let me stay, finish my sentence, and then leave me alone forever. I asked them to erase me from their records.

They agreed.

A strange request for a recently incarcerated thief, I know, but I had a plan. Like I said, 10 years is a lot of time to think, a lot of time to forget, but most importantly, a lot of time to plan your revenge. I worked with the syndicate on their special jobs for the next 10 years, but they didn’t come to me often. I would only pull jobs with them about once every year or so. That gave me a lot of free time to plan.

One night they tell me about a new job: they want to pull a heist at the San Marco casino and they want me to lend them my safe cracking advice and run point on the heist. I had only about a year left in prison before my sentence was complete. That last year in prison was the most dangerous for me. I had spent nine years planning my revenge and this heist, this one last job, would be my ticket out, but not simply out of prison. It would be my ticket out of a life a crime forever.

I spent a year working closely with the syndicate to plan the heist. We got an inside man hired at the casino early in the planning stages on their security detail. Initially our plan was for him to let us in late one night and then have me crack the safe while they covered me from the security response. I decided that was a little dangerous and a little dumb. Aside from having to hold off a private army, It didn’t leave me much room to make my move.

I decided to change the plan in the interest of everyone’s safety and not getting caught. I proposed that rather than crack the safe at the San Marco, we just steal the whole thing and crack it later when we have more time and less pressure. I didn’t have a clue of how to do this though. Lucky for me, our inside man felt confident that enough black powder, focused backwards into the wall surrounding the safe, might just pry it loose and he knew just the man for the job. Enter our demo man. I also proposed that we replace the stolen safe with a copy to throw the police off our trail. There was my opportunity.

The syndicate began sneaking me out of the prison one or two nights a week. The guards were in our pockets and kept my coming and going off record. The syndicate set me up with a nice workshop to work on building them an exact duplicate of the San Marco safe. I asked to be left alone while I worked. They compromised and left me under watch of one of their muscle guys. He didn’t know anything. Our inside man would send me precise details of the safe as he got them and I would go to work. Only, I didn’t build a copy of the safe. I built two.

I got out of prison on a Saturday. I pulled the heist at the San Marco on a Friday, the day before. Everything went according to plan at the start. We used a small team of four. We had our inside man, our demo man, me, and one piece of muscle. Our inside man snuck us in through a side door and down to the basement. Security was light at the basement level, so our muscle handled it quickly and quietly. We reached the safe room and our inside man opened the combination lock and released the lever that opened the wall concealing the safe.

Our demo man sized up the wall and the placement of the safe and went to work. He pulled some small, metal beams from his bag and began putting them together into a large, square bracket. He then began to pack the bracket with black powder all the way around. Next, he wrapped it and tried to pull all as much air out as possible. He then picked the bracket up and bolted it on the wall surrounding the safe. He ran a copper fuse wired to a detonator some distance from the safe and behind the table and chairs that we had flipped over for cover. Once he was done, I called everyone together.

“Listen,” I said, “the moment we blow that powder, everyone in the whole casino will know something is going wrong. It won’t be long until the rest of security arrives to check everything out. The first thing they’re going to do is call the cops. Once we blow the powder, we are on a time crunch.” I look at our muscle, “Keys to the getaway cars?”

“Yeah,” he replied and handed me one, “They’re just outside that fire escape door. Two of us can fit in each car.”

I look at the demo man, “Once you blow it, you and I pull safe out of the wall, put the copy in place, and put the real safe in our car. Then we’ll head back to our safehouse.” I look back at the other two. “You guys cover us until we’re gone and then get out yourselves. We’ll lay on the horn just before we’re away. Nobody try any hero stuff. This take isn’t worth your lives.”

Everyone nods.

“Let’s go to work,” I say.

We all run behind the flipped furniture. The demo man counts down and sets off his device. The powder explodes and I’m sure it rattles the entire casino. A could of dirt and dust erupts from the wall and fills the whole room. The demo man and I move in, dragging the copy of the safe as close as possible. We reach the wall. It looks like a clean cut. He and I put our gloves on and reach in to the crack around the safe. It’s tight, but we can each get our entire hands in on the sides and the top. We pull and begin to work the safe out from the wall. It’s much heavier than my empty copy, which will be good for our take, but I’m not a amused at the moment.

We can hear the casino security on their way down to our level. Our muscle and our inside man take up positions on either side of the hallway leading to the door. One guard makes it through the door. The muscle gives him a bullet in the leg. He falls and begins to crawl back through the door. With this being the only entryway into the safe room, we can hold for a short while.

The security smashes the door open and places an overturned table in the entryway, affording them some make shift cover. They have three or four guys behind the table firing at our two. They had opened fire and between the concrete walls, the sound was almost as deafening as the blast earlier. Bullets shredded the air and ricochets bounced and buried themselves all over the room. We were outmanned and outgunned even worse than I predicted. I didn’t love the math, but it would have to do.

The demo man and I are just about done getting the safe out of the wall. I look at him and shout over the gunfire. “One! Two! Three! Lift!” He and I both wrap our hands under the safe. It’s heavy, but we can hold it. We make it over to the fire escape door and push it open. There are two cars parked. Carefully, the demo man and I load the safe into the back of one of the cars. We crank it up and I lay on the horn or a few moments. We see the muscle and the inside man making their retreat.

I wait and watch in my rearview mirror. It’s critical to my plan that they survive.

“What are you doing?” the demo man says, “Let’s go!”

“I want to make sure they get out!” I respond.

They do and the muscle makes it to the car and starts it. The inside man is about to get in when he’s tackled by one of the security guards. The muscle sees it and is about to abandon him. He cranks up his car and makes to leave, but I’m blocking his way.

“Dammit!” I say and get out of the car. The demo man says something to me, but I don’t listen. The muscle is laying on his horn, but I ignore him too. I pull the revolver from my vest and look down the barrel.

Let me be clear: I don’t like shooting people, but when it came to my nine year plan for vengeance, there was no line. I would take this man’s life if he meant to take this last job and the rest of my life from me.

The bullet explodes from my revolver with a bone jarring crack. The security officer’s body goes limp. The inside man stands up, gives me a nod, and jumps in his getaway car. I quickly run over to the security officer’s body, rip his badge from his shirt, jump in my getaway car, and we leave.

Phillip – Part Two

Back on the street, I pull my jacket forward and turn up the collar. A wind is picking up and I can hear a dull roar toward the city center. I follow the old woman’s directions and find myself on the bustling square. I stand for a moment and take the square in. It must look like a giant ant hill from above. Each person with their own goal and their own path. They travel in every direction. They bump into each other often and apologize rarely. Automobiles have come to a complete stop, each one waiting for the next to move. The air feels dirty, almost gritty as it enters my lungs.
I’ve missed this city.
I find the police office is on the square like the old woman told me. As I make my way around the square, I notice that a large crowd has gathered outside the steps leading into the station; men in trench coats and hats, some with cameras and huge flash bulbs, others with pads and pencils scribbling furiously. I’m certain at any moment their paper will combust from the sustained friction, but it doesn’t. A tall, large man in police uniform decorated with badges and ribbons is talking behind a podium, his entourage just behind him. The man’s mustache is as austere as he is. It’s been 10 years and he’s put on some weight, but I recognize him. He’s the chief of police. As I approach, he’s in the middle of a press conference.
“That may be possible,” he answers a reporter, “We’re ruling out nothing at this time.”
Pencils scribble quickly on their respective pads. One reporter puts his hand in the air and waves.
“Chief! Who are you primary suspects at the moment?”
“We . . .” he pauses for a beat, “have several individuals who we are investigating at the moment.” A beat. “I can’t say anything more than that in the interest of protecting their identities.”
That was a lie. I shift my posture on to one foot, cross my arms, and continue to listen. Another reporter waves his hand.
“Do you have any theories as to how this thief got past security so easily?”
“It was apparently an inside job. Only someone with very detailed knowledge of the security layout could’ve done this.” A beat, “But as I said, we’re ruling out nothing at the moment. We have a lot of good leads to track down.”
The inside job lead must’ve been a dead end. He doesn’t know where to take the case now. Another reporter is about to ask a question, but the chief is already turning to walk away from the podium. The crowd of reporters frenzies and begins shouting questions. The police chief tries to shout over the roar, but I don’t think anyone hears him.
“I really can’t answer any more questions at this time,” he says, “but rest assured; we are doing everything in our power to bring this thief to justice!”
He turns and walks back inside the station, his entourage in tow. The reporters, though disappointed, begin to quiet down and disperse. It’s not long until I’m the only one standing on the sidewalk. Other people are still bustling to try to get somewhere else. I stand and look at the police station for a moment. The view from here is better than when I was stuffed in the back of a police car 10 years ago. And my hands are free. I look at my hands a moment and rub my wrists. My hands were tied with rope and I remember the burns. I raise my eyes and look at the front doors to the station for a moment. I walk up the stoop and inside.
The lobby is mostly quiet now. A few officers are milling about with files in their hands and several people are sitting on benches waiting. There’s a young, pretty receptionist waiting by a phone behind a desk. She’s new. Or new-ish. Well, she wasn’t here the last time I was here anyway. I realize the irony of this situation; my first day out of prison I go back to the same police station where I was interrogated immediately before I was thrown in prison. But my reason for being here is different this time. Nevertheless, this is awkward. I take a deep breath and proceed into the station lobby. Hopefully, no one has worked here long enough to remember who I am.
I approach the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist doesn’t look up from her desk as I approach. I stand in front of her for a moment and say nothing. She glances up at me, then back down.
“Something I can help you with?” Her voice is soft and sweet if only a tad nonchalant. I thought to be offended, but she couldn’t possibly know the gravity of what I had to say.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to the chief please,” I reply.
Now she looks up at me, “The chief currently isn’t seeing anyone. He just finished a press conference. If you like, you can make an appointment. He should have some time . . .” she begins flipping through a calendar. I decide not to wait.
“He’ll want to see me now. Trust me. Just let him know I’ve got information regarding the San Marco casino,” I start walking backwards away from the counter, “and I’ll be waiting right here when he wants to talk.” I take a seat at a bench facing her. “Right here,” I reiterate.
I watch as she gets on the phone, a different phone than the one I originally spied on her desk. She covers her mouth and talks under her breath, so I can’t hear what she says. Occasionally, she sends a suspicious eye my way which I meet with a calm, watchful stare and a confident smile.
This is going my way.
It isn’t long before a slender man in a gray, three-button suit comes out from a door behind the receptionist. He makes a beeline for her and begins talking to her in hushed voices. I see him send a glance my way and he looks me up and down. I just look at him. He says a few more words to the receptionist and then comes over to me.
Standing over me, he looks down. “You got information for the chief?”
Still sitting, I look up at him. “Yeah, I think he’ll want to hear it.”
A pause.
“Alright then,” the slender man takes a step back from me and turns around. Looking over his shoulder, “you can follow me. He’ll see you now.”
I follow him behind the same door he emerged from. We walk down a corridor, turn, down another. We go up a flight of stairs, another corridor, another turn, and then the slender man bends slightly to open a door. He doesn’t go in, but gestures for me to enter. I do and he enters behind me. Inside is a plain, steel table with two uncomfortable metal chairs on either side of the table. The setting sun is entering through the room’s only window. The room is warm and slightly amber due to the sunlight.
“Grab a seat,” says the slender man and gestures toward the far chair,” Let’s hear what you have to tell us.” The slender man closes the door, walks behind me as I sit, closing the blinds on the window. The room turns to a cold, blue, steel color.
I sit down, but I make my protest vocal, “I don’t think you understand,” I say, “I told the receptionist that I have information for the chief, and seeing as how I don’t know who you are, I can’t tell you what I have to say.”
As soon as I finish speaking, the slender man grabs my arms, pulls them behind my back, and cuffs my wrists. The cold steel of a handcuff link is all too familiar. Forget what I said earlier. This isn’t going my way at all.

Phillip – Part One

I’m almost done writing this story line. I’ve decided to begin releasing it in longer segments. I haven’t titled it yet, so I’m open to suggestions. I’ve always been awful at titling my work. For now, I’ll simply call it “Phillip” because he’s the only character to whom I’ve assigned a name.

Part One

I get out of prison this Saturday. 10 years sure seemed like a long time to me when I was 21. Someone told me that my twenties would fly by. They told me I’d be married with a family before I knew it. Someone lied. Of course, my twenties were a bit different than that of most young gentleman. Most gentlemen my age were learning a trade or trying to court a woman. I was surviving. Come to think of it, I’ve always been surviving.

Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced myself. Phillip, professional thief – er – sorry. I was a professional thief before I got caught. It was a set-up. There was this job. It seemed like a pretty simple heist, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They hired me to crack the safe, but that wasn’t actually what they wanted. They needed a fall guy to cover their escape and, being as young and naive as I was, the choice was obvious.

I don’t talk about it much. I used to bitter about it. It was hard for me to sleep at night, partly because of how horrible these beds were, if you could call them beds. I got used to them. No, it had a lot more to do with what I would think about after the guards turned out the lights. I used to fantasize about catching up to the guys who set me up and what I’d do to them if I ever caught them. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They were more like ghosts than people. I don’t even know their names. I hardly remember what they look like. And besides, that was years ago. 10 years is good time to think, but more importantly, it’s good time to forget. That’s what I wanted to do, at least.

Sunlight broke through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I roll over and look at the calendar I carved into the same wall.

It was Saturday.

Getting out of prison is about as glamorous as getting in; lots of waiting, paper pushing, standing, and hand cuffs. They have me change into some uncomfortable civilian clothes. They give me an itchy shirt, patched trousers, suspenders with rusty clips, a jacket about as thick as newspaper, some old shoes that didn’t fit, and a dirty hat.

I hadn’t looked better in 10 years.

Once I change and they finish stamping all my papers, they walk me outside to the gate. There, they hand me a burlap sack and tell me this was to help me start a new life. The warden walks over to me. He takes off my cuffs.

“Congratulations, Phillip,” he said, gesturing toward the road beyond the gate. “You’re free to go.”

He smiles at me. I feign a smile back. He extends his hand, still smiling. I reach out and shake his hand. I walk out the gate and hear it to whine to a thud as it closed.

And that was it.

The prison was located on a hill not far out from the city. I stand on the street for a few minutes taking in the city before me. Sunlight hits my face. It was warmer, somehow fresher than in the prison yard. I take a deep breath. The air tasted better. It was less stale. A breeze catches my jacket, pulls my hat off, and tosses my dark hair. I crack a smile for real this time. Then I pick up my hat from where it landed a few feet away. I turn and look down at the city and wonder how much it’s changed in 10 years. I untie the drawstring on the sack and look inside. There was another pair of trousers, another shirt, two pairs of underwear, $100, and a sandwich. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke, but I chuckle like it was. I’m not sure how they expected those things to help me start a new life, but nevertheless, I tied the sack up again and sling it over my shoulder. It wasn’t really important. I had other plans. I turn, take one last look at my home of the last 10 years, and start walking down the road toward the city.

I walk down the rural road from the prison that leads into the city. There’s tall grass and open, downhill fields which afforded me a great view. Every mile or so I’d pass the odd mailbox, only a small hint that anyone actually lived on this much land. Their long driveways disappeared seemingly miles away into small specks that vaguely resembled enormous country manors. I remembered those from my ride in to prison 10 years ago. And just like 10 years ago, the thought crossed my mind of how many valuable things they might have, how easy they might be to take, if they would even miss those things once I had . . . .

I snap to. I shake my head and try to place the thought behind me. That was a thought I hoped to leave behind me along with . . . well, everything else. I had other things to focus on now. Only a handful of automobiles actually drove by me on the road. A few them, appropriately, drove down the long driveways toward the country estates. The type to own estates in the country are some of the few wealthy enough to own one of those automobiles.

By the time I had made it to the edge of the city, the sun was high in the sky and I’m feeling ready for my sandwich. I sit down on a bench on a street corner and take my sandwich out of the sack. It’s warm. In a bad way. I peel the bread apart and look at what’s on it. Some ham, a slice of cheese, and some mustard. This is significantly better than prison food. I take an excited bite and lean back on the bench. I spread my arm along the back of the bench, cross my legs, and look around.

This side of town is quiet. I’m still far from downtown. There is a small convenience store, a bank, and couple other buildings I can’t identify. I guess they’re offices. There’s only a handful of people out walking around. They look like they’re far too busy going somewhere else to possibly want to hang around here. I could relate. A kid selling newspapers catches my eye. This didn’t look like a busy part of town to be trying to sell papers. I take the final bites of my sandwich and brush the crumbs off my lap. I walk over to him.

“Hey, kid,” I say.

“I’m not a kid, I’m fifteen!” he retorted, indignant.

I just stare at him for a moment. “Yeah . . . anyway, can I buy a paper?”

The kids eyes brighten up. He apparently forgot that I had insulted him. “Yeah! Of course! Just a nickle.”

I reach in my pocket and feel the lint. I wince. The only money I had was the $100 bill in the sack. “Listen ah, you don’t have change for a hundred bucks, do ya?” I say.

The kid laughs out loud and looks at me. I just keep looking right back at him. “Oh, you’re serious,” he says. “What are you, some kind of high roller?”

I feel a puzzled look cross my face as I consider what I’m wearing and how long it’s been since I had a good shave, but nevertheless, I decide I’ll play.

“Yeah, of course I’m a high roller,” I assert, “Do you have any idea who I am?”

The kid opens his mouth and begins to form an answer. I interrupt him, “Doesn’t matter. Now you got change for me or am I buying my paper somewhere else?”

The kid is frazzled and tries to pull himself together. “Uh, yeah, yeah, sure. Of course I got the change.”

“Let me see it first”

He pulls a pouch out of his pocket and opens it up. I quickly tally it. He’s got more than enough. That strikes me as odd that a kid selling newspapers has change for $100, but I bite.

I hand him my bill. He hands me a paper, and some crumpled bills. He starts counting coins out of his purse, but I see him do a sleight of hand and count the same nickel three times. He’s trying to short change me figuring I won’t notice 15 cents in 99 dollars. Smart kid, I think to myself. He’s probably been doing this all morning. No wonder he’s got change for $100. He holds his hand out to drop the change in mine. I open my palm and let it fall.

“Thanks kid,” I say.

“You’re welcome, mister!”

“But can I have the rest of my change?”

He stares at me, confused and afraid that I’ve caught him, “Wha . . . um . . . what do you mean?”

“Your sleight of hand was slow. Also, you counted each coin individually and drew my attention to it. You were too thorough.”

I reach my hand in his purse and grab 15 cents. I lean in really close to him and quietly say, “Next time, kid, distract me from what you’re doing. Get me to talk about the weather or my family. Anything to take my eye and my focus away from your play.”

I lean back and smile really big. Loudly, I say, “Yeah, I hope this weather holds too! I’ve got a fun trip planned for the family this weekend! Thanks again!”

I walk away. After a bit I turn around, smile, and wave at him. I shoot him a wink and he smiles back. Kid’s good. I was around his age when I started.

I keep walking through the streets toward downtown. It’s early afternoon now, so I figure I’d like to have a cup of tea and read my fresh paper. After a few minutes, I find a little tearoom and walk inside. It’s quaint. And quiet. There’s only a couple people inside including the elderly lady keeping the place. The chairs and tables look old, but well worn. A lot of interesting people have sat in this tearoom over the years. I suppose they’ll add my name to that list.  I approach the counter and wait for the woman to acknowledge me.

She turns and sees me, “Oh! Hello dearie! I apologize, I didn’t see you there!”

“No problem,” I assure her. I lean in and ask, “Do you have any Earl Grey?”

She chuckles a little. “Well, it wouldn’t be a right tearoom if I didn’t! Go ahead an grab a seat dearie, I’ll start making it for you.” I start to reach for my pocket to pay when she inquires, “Is this your first time here?”

I nod.

A broad smile spreads across her face. “Then your tea is on me today. Go grab a seat.” She waved me away the way a mother waves her children away from cookies fresh out of the oven; with only the most pleasant of smiles.

I grab a seat at a table a few steps away. I take off my hat and place it in front of me on the table. I pull my paper out from under my arm and give it a whip to open it. The headline glares at me in dark, bold print:

SAN MARCO CASINO SAFE CRACKED! POLICE DUMBFOUNDED!

The cover photo had a big picture of an open, empty safe and a few police standing around it. I smirk and start reading. Casino jobs were always my favorite. The elderly woman comes by and drops my tea off.

“Your tea, dearie.”

“Thank you,” I reply, not looking up from my paper. The woman lingers a moment, then glances at my paper.

“Oh you’re reading about that safe cracking!”

I turn and look at her. “You know something about it?” I inquire.

“Oh, it’s the strangest thing. Plenty of people have tried to rob that casino but this one was different. The safe was locked up in a room with guards on watch all night, but when they opened it in the morning, it was empty! The police haven’t been able to figure it out.”

“Sounds like an inside job,” I mutter, “Classic.”

“Sorry, I’m a little hard of hearing,” she leaned in, “What was that, dearie?”

I raise my voice a little and over-enunciate, “I said, ‘sounds like a tough job. Classic.'” I drop the enunciation and continue, “You know, a tough job for the police.”

“Oh right! Well, I agree! That does sound difficult. Hard to catch someone when there’s no evidence.”

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have a pair of scissors or something with which to cut out this article, would you?”

“Well, sure, dearie! Let me grab that for you!”

She bustles off and returns in a moment with a pair of scissors which she hands to me. I quickly cut out the photograph and the headline. I stuff the clipping in to my jacket pocket and leave the rest of the paper on the table. I stand up and put my hat on.

“Are you leaving, dearie?” she asks.

“Well, I just remembered a very important meeting I need to go to and . . . uh . . . well, I need to go to it. Thank you for the tea. It was lovely.”

“But you haven’t tried any!”

As I walk across the tearoom and toward the door I say, “Ah, but I needn’t taste it to know how delicious it is! Tea is all about the aroma,” I grab the doorknob, open the door, and turn back to face the woman, “is it not, misses . . . ?”

“Please, just call me Mary, dearie,” she said with a smile.

“Mary,” I smile at her, “can you tell me how to get to the police station from here?”

“Sure,” she says, “Just go down three blocks until you reach the square with the fountain. It’s on the square.”

“Thank you Mary.”

“Oh! I didn’t catch your name, sir!”

“No,” I smirk, “You didn’t.” I walk out and shut the door behind me.

Part Two to what I wrote yesterday

I walked down the rural road from the prison that lead into the city. There was tall grass and open, downhill fields which afforded me a great view. Every mile or so I’d pass the odd mailbox, only a small hint that anyone actually lived on this much land. Their long driveways disappeared seemingly miles away into small specks that vaguely resembled enormous country manors. I remembered those from my ride in to prison 10 years ago. And just like 10 years ago, the thought crossed my mind of how many valuable things they might have, how easy they might be to take, if they would even miss those things once I had . . . .

I snapped to. I shook my head and tried to place that thought behind me. That was a thought I hoped to leave behind me along with . . . well, everything else. Only a handful of automobiles actually drove by me on the road. A few them, appropriately, drove down the long driveways toward the country estates. The type to own estates in the country are some of the few wealthy enough to own one of those automobiles.

By the time I had made it to the edge of the city, the sun was high in the sky and I was feeling ready for a sandwich. I sat down on a bench on a street corner and took my sandwich out of the sack. It was warm. In a bad way. I peeled the bread apart and looked at what was on it. Some ham, a slice of cheese, and some mustard. This was significantly better than prison food. I took a bite and leaned back on the bench. I spread my arm along the back of the bench, crossed my legs, and looked around.

This side of town was quiet. I was still far from downtown. There was a small convenience store, a bank, and couple other buildings I couldn’t identify. I guessed they were offices. There were only a handful of people out walking around. They looked like they were far too busy going somewhere else to possibly want to hang around here. I could relate. A kid selling newspapers caught my eye. This didn’t look like a busy part of town to be trying to sell papers. I take the final bites of my sandwich and brush the crumbs off my lap. I walk over to him.

“Hey, kid,” I say.

“I’m not a kid, I’m fifteen!” he retorted, indignant.

I just stare at him for a moment. “Yeah . . . anyway, can I buy a paper?”

The kids eyes brighten up. He apparently forgot that I had insulted him. “Yeah! Of course! Just a nickle.”

I reach in my pocket and feel the lint. I wince. The only money I had was the $100 bill in the sack. “Listen ah, you don’t have change for a hundred bucks, do ya?” I say.

The kid laughs out loud and looks at me. I just keep looking right back at him. “Oh, you’re serious,” he says. “What are you, some kind of high roller?”

I feel puzzled look cross my face as I consider what I’m wearing and how long it’s been since I had a good shave, but nevertheless, I decide I’ll play.

“Yeah, of course I’m a high roller,” I assert confidently, “Do you have any idea who I am?”

The kid opens his mouth and begins to form an answer. I interrupt him, “Doesn’t matter. Now you got change for me or am I buying my paper somewhere else?”

The kid’s frazzled and tries to pull himself together. “Uh, yeah, yeah, sure. Of course I got the change.”

“Let me see it first”

He pulls a pouch out of his pocket and opens it up. I quickly tally it. He’s got more than enough. I hand him my bill. He hands me a paper, and some crumpled bills. He starts counting coins out of his purse, but I see him do a sleight of hand and count the same nickel three times. He’s trying to short change me figuring I won’t notice 15 cents in 99 dollars. Smart kid, I think to myself. He’s probably been doing this all morning. He holds his hand out to drop the change in mine. I open my palm and let it fall.

“Thanks kid,” I say.

“You’re welcome, mister!”

“But can I have the rest of my change?”

He stares at me, confused, “Wha . . . um . . . what do you mean?”

“Your sleight of hand was slow. Also, you counted each coin individually and drew my attention to it. You were too thorough.”

I reach my hand in his purse and grab 15 cents. I lean in really close to him and quietly say, “Next time, kid, distract me from what you’re doing. Get me to talk about the weather or my family. Anything to take my eye and my focus away from your play”

I lean back and smile really big. Loudly, I say, “Yeah, I hope this weather holds too! I’ve got a fun trip planned for the family this weekend! Thanks again!”

I walk away. After a bit a turn around and smile and wave at him. I shoot him a wink and smiles back. Kid’s good. I was around his age when I started.

This may become a short story

I got out of prison on a Saturday. 10 years sure seemed like a long time to me when I was 21. Someone told me that my twenties would fly by. They told me I’d be married with a family before I knew it. Someone lied. Of course, my twenties were a bit different than that of most young gentleman. Most gentlemen my age were learning a trade or trying to court a woman. I was surviving. Come to think of it, I’ve always been surviving.
Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced myself. Phillip, professional thief – er – sorry. I was a professional thief before I got caught. It was a set-up. There was this job. It seemed like a pretty simple heist, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They hired me to crack the safe, but that wasn’t actually what they wanted. They needed a fall guy to cover their escape and, being as young and naive as I was, the choice was obvious.
I don’t talk about it much. I used to bitter about it. It was hard for me to sleep at night, partly because of how horrible these beds were, if you could call them beds. I got used to them. No, it had a lot more to do with what I would think about after the guards turned out the lights. I used to fantasize about catching up to the guys who set me up and what I’d do to them if I ever caught them. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They were more like ghosts than people. I don’t even know their names. I hardly remember what they look like. And besides, that was years ago. 10 years is good time to think, but more importantly, it’s good time to forget. That’s what I wanted to do, at least.
Sunlight was breaking through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I rolled over and looked at the calendar I carved into the same wall.
It was Saturday.
Getting out of prison was about as glamorous as getting in; lots of waiting, paper pushing, standing and hand cuffs. They had me change into some uncomfortable civilian clothes. They gave me an itchy shirt, patched trousers, suspenders with rusty clips, a jacket about as thick as a sheet of newspaper, some old shoes that didn’t fit, and a dirty hat. I’d never looked better in 10 years.
Once I was changed and they had finished stamping all my papers, they walked me outside to the gate. There, they handed me a burlap sack and told me this was to help me start a new life. The warden walked over to me. He took off my cuffs and shook my hand.
“Congratulations, Phillip,” he said, gesturing toward the road beyond the gate. “You’re free to go.”
He smiled at me. I feigned a smile back. I walked out the gate and heard it to whine to a thud as it closed.
And that was it.
The prison was located on a hill not far out from the city. I stood on the street for a few minutes taking in the city before me. Sunlight hit my face. It was warmer, somehow fresher than in the prison yard. I took a deep breath. The air tasted better. It was less stale. A breeze caught my jacket a tossed my dark hair. I cracked a smile for real this time. I looked down at the city wondered how much it had changed in 10 years. I untied the drawstring on the sack and looked inside. There was another pair of trousers, another shirt, two pairs of underwear, $100, and a sandwich. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke, but I chuckled like it was. I wasn’t sure how they expected those things to help me start a new life, but nevertheless, I tied the sack up again and slung it over my shoulder. I turned, took one last look at my home of the last 10 years, and started walking down the road toward the city.

Crappy Cubicle Culture

Crappy cubicle culture; whoever first sought
to divide a room into square parts
thinking this would make more productive thoughts,
they surely should be shot.

The privacy afforded by a tall, cold wall
they limit office society, and all in all,
How shall I know someone I cannot see?

However shall I think
outside the proverbial box
when I am “encouraged” (required)
to remain? My mind is behind locks
and I am held as a prisoner on the docks
. . . at least until five o’clock

Crappy cubicle culture; whoever first sought
to divide a room into square parts
. . . no, I choose instead to depart.