Michael pulled hard against the cuffs that bound him to the steel table. The officer left minutes before, but refused to loosen the cuff before he went, even after Michael complained about it cutting off his circulation. Michael shook his hand to get some feeling back into it. When the large, metal door swung open again, a long-haired man in a suit, at least five years younger than Michael, entered the interrogation room, an even younger police officer right behind him.
“What the actual fuck?” The man in the suit said. He turned to the cop. “Are you kidding me? Where’s he gonna go?” The officer pushed his way into the room, removed a set of keys from his belt, then removed the cuff from Michael’s wrist. The man in the suit approached the table and looked down at Michael, who was rubbing his sore wrist. “I’m your public defender,” he said. “John Angleton.” He turned back to the young cop and whispered, “That’s your cue to get the fuck outta here.” The officer seemed confused at first, then his face lit up with recognition.
“Oh,” he said. “Got it. I’ll be right outside.” He left, slamming the door on his way out. The lawyer dragged one of the folding chairs the interrogators had been using closer to the table and sat down.
“So,” he said, folding his hands like he was about to say a prayer and smiling. “Wanna tell me why you car-jacked your friend?”
The story came out at court. At least half the story did. The prosecution had three main witnesses – two security guards, and Sam. Most of the details came from Sam, who told a tale about a crazed lunatic he thought had been his friend, jumping into his car and putting a knife to his side. There were no words exchanged, there wasn’t any time for that. Michael had barely opened his mouth to speak before the passenger-side door opened and he was pulled out and slammed down face-first to the asphalt. Sam went on to explain to the court that Michael had been through a very traumatic experience. He wasn’t in his right mind at the time. No, he had no idea why his supposed best friend would do that to him, but he knew Michael’s head wasn’t together.
The two guards didn’t provide much insight either. They’d been called by the front desk officer who witnessed everything from an overhead camera that overlooked that portion of the parking lot. None of it mattered. After the second guard testified, Michael told the judge that he wanted to change his plea to guilty. His defender was pissed, but Michael didn’t care. He explained to the court that he’d been out looking for his missing daughter, car broke down, needed a ride. After that, he didn’t remember anything at all except being thrown to the ground by the guards. He apologized to Sam and threw himself on the mercy of the court.
The court sentenced him to five years
Lost in the system – that’s what Ngo called it. “You gotta get lost in the system, Brother. Forget that there’s an exit date in this place. If you count down, you’ll go fucking crazy.”
Michael met Tommy Ngo his third week inside. By then, Michael had already been attacked twice by other inmates. Both were members of gangs. The whites were trying to size Michael up. Michael wasn’t interested in joining a gang and made that known when the they first approached him in the recreational yard. They smiled, said alright. Then attacked him in the showers later. They beat him down, kicked him hard, and carved him up. He’d spent nearly a week in the infirmary. After that first attack, the word was out – he wasn’t protected. The Mexicans jumped him in the recreational yard a couple weeks later for daring to step over the yellow line they referred to as The Border. They beat him good until the guards pulled them off. Michael was in bad shape after, but nowhere near as bad as he was after the first attack. A quick trip to the infirmary and he was released back to the general population the next day.
The third attack happened in the showers again. It wasn’t by the whites or the Mexicans that time, but by an inmate named Jeffreys. There was no warning. There were no words exchanged. One second, Michael was rinsing himself off – the next, someone grabbed him from behind. There was a glint of light reflecting off steel, just long enough for Michael to know he was a dead man. But the blade never bit into him. Instead, a different blade opened Jefferey’s throat. Trembling horribly, Michael stared at the twitching man sprawled out in a puddle of soapy water and blood.
“You should probably get the fuck out of here,” a voice said. Michael looked up. An Asian man peered around the outside of the shower wall.
Michael got out of there.
The man who saved Michael’s life in the showers was Tommy Ngo. He belonged to a group of inmates known as The Others. They met up again in the yard a few days later. Ngo strolled up to where Michael was leaning against the south wall. The other inmates stayed clear of that section of wall – most likely because it was a clear shot from the tower.
“You got a target on you, bro.” Ngo said.
“I won’t join your gang,” Michael responded. Ngo laughed.
“Hey, dog,” he said. “If I had a gang, I wouldn’t want you in it anyways. You can’t fight for shit.” He explained to Tommy who The Others were. Most of the inmates fell into one segregated gang or another, but there were some that didn’t qualify to be in any gang. They either weren’t the right color or religion, or they were branded as undesirable for some other reason. Ngo was an Other – and now, so was Michael.
“Who was it this time?” Michael asked when Ngo finished. “The Italians? The whites again?” Ngo shook his head.
“None of the above, bro,” he said. “That guy was a new fish. He wasn’t claiming anything.” He came closer, lowered his voice. “I put some feelers out. Nobody has a hit on you. Not in here, anyways.”
“What does that mean?” Michael asked. Ngo shook his head.
“You really are dumb, bro. Guess I got to go Barney style with you, huh? Okay, man. Here’s the deal. Someone wants your ass in a big way. And it ain’t nobody in here. You got some enemies on the outside.” Then, when he saw the confusion in Michael’s expression turn to fear, he continued – “And you know exactly who the fuck it is, don’t you?”
“What do I do?”
“Simple,” Ngo said. “If you got enemies out there, make friends in here. People to get your back.” Michael couldn’t help but to laugh out loud.
“That easy, huh?” He said.
“Easier than dying,” Ngo said. “Besides, you already made one.” He held out his hand. “Tommy Ngo,” he said. Michael took his hand, shook it.
“Michael,” he said. “Thanks for…”
“Oh,” Ngo cut him off. “Don’t worry about that, bro. You’ll pay me back.”
Floodlights lit up the window blinds. He knew they were all out there now. He could hear the chunka-chunka sound of at least one helicopter. He felt an impulse to sneak a peek out through the blinds, but something told him it’d be the last peek he’d ever take. The Colonel was awake now, staring at him with the same horrified expression he’d had when Michael took the first limb off. What’s next? That expression asked. What the fuck’s next? I’ll show you what’s next, Michael thought. He picked up the phone, dialed 911, hit send. The operator answered almost immediately and began her scripted spiel. Michael cut her off.
“Shut the fuck up and listen,” he said. “I’m the asshole holding the Pig Colonel in the abandoned building that half your cops are surrounding. Pass my number along.” Then he hung up, went to Sam, removed the ball-gag.
“Good news or bad news first?” he asked. It took a full minute for Sam to respond. He spent the first thirty seconds trying to catch his breath, then the other thirty puking all over the front of his uniform.
“What?” Sam said when he finished puking.
“How do you do that?” Michael asked.
“Shit,” Michael said. “My bad. Too many questions at once. Just answer the first one. Good news or bad news first?”
“Look, Michael…” Michael rushed behind Sam’s chair, put a palm on the Colonel’s forehead, pulled his head back. Suddenly, the blade of a utility knife pressed just under Sam’s chin.
“Answer my fucking question,” Michael said.
“Good news!” Sam yelled.
“Great choice,” Michael said. He slid the blade of the utility knife back into its handle and tucked it into his pocket. “Welp, he said. The good news, Colonel is that I’m finished with the whole dismemberment part of our little adventure. Now, you get to make a phone call. Then, we’ll be almost there.”
“A phone call?”
“Yep,” Michael said. “You’re going to call your homies and tell them to bring Jessica here.” Sam began shaking his head violently.
“I can’t do that, Michael,” he said. “I don’t know why you think…” Michael pressed his hand over Sam’s mouth, put his finger up to his own lips.
“Shhh… You’re going to do it,” he said. “I have zero doubts about that. So, you can call your masters now – or you can call them later.” He fished the utility knife back from his pocket, slid open the blade and showed it to Sam. “I suggest now.” He released his hand from Sam’s mouth. “Whadaya say, huh old friend? Just give me the number. I’ll dial it for you. I know you’re kind of handicapped right now.”
“Even if I knew what you’re talking about,” Sam said, “I know the bad news is you’re going to kill me anyway. So, just do it. Get it over with, Michael.” Just then, Michael’s phone began to ring. He knew who it was without looking.
“Hold that thought,” he said. He answered the phone. “Hello officer.”
There was no negotiation. The detective on the phone told him that he had very little time before they came in hard. Michael warned him that he had the room wired with explosives. Then the detective asked what Michael wanted.
“I want my wife and a news crew,” Michael told him.
“That’s a tall order,” the detective said.
“How’s about I blow this fucking building right now?” Michael said.
“What’s her number?” The detective asked. Michael gave it to him.
“Have her call me when she gets here,” Michael said. “And don’t try anything stupid. This’ll all be over quick if you just do what I say.” Michael hung up the phone, turned to Sam. “Where were we?” he asked. “Oh yeah. You said I was going to kill you anyway. That about right?” Sam nodded. “Eh! Wrong answer,” Michael said. “I’m not going to kill you, Colonel.” He looked down at the bandaged stump at the end of Sam’s arm, then at his mangled hand. “Shit – at this point you’d probably welcome a bullet to the head. That about right?” Sam didn’t respond. Instead, he looked down at the table and began crying again. “No, old buddy,” Michael continued. “The bad news is that I’m not going to kill you.” Sam looked up at that, his expression hopeful – at least it was until Michael said, “I’m going to expose you.” Michael lunged at him again, wrapped his arm around Sam’s neck, in a headlock. Then he brought the blade of the utility knife down hard on top of Sam’s head. Sam let out a gut-wrenching scream, started shifting back and forth, trying to get away. “Hold still,” Michael said. “The easy part’s done.” He pulled the utility knife down the front of Sam’s face, opening him up from crown to chin. Then he dropped the knife and with each hand, grabbed hold of the wet edges of the freshly cut flesh and yanked back, peeling Sam’s face away from his head. Sam flailed, jerked, and bobbed, as well as screamed for dear life, but in the end, the flesh came free. When Michael tore away the last large chunk, which contained half a chubby cheek and the edges of a mouth, Sam fainted again. Michael bent over, fighting to catch his breath. Once his composure returned, he went to the front of the table, stared at the monstrosity before him. “Well fuck me running,” he said. “Hello there.”
To be Continued…