As promised, here is another chapter, featuring Mick, the other Sawyer brother. Give us a shot if you haven't read Blood On Blood yet.
I’ve never been to prison.
Jail, sure. In the year and a half I spent on the job, I booked my share of suspects. And I saw the inside of a jail cell for a few weeks on that shit Harris and the Sarge pulled. But prison is a different matter. Or so I hear.
They checked me through with all the efficiency you might expect. Slow and steady. Lots of waiting. And repeating myself. And showing identification. And being searched.
All the while, the guards kept a professional detachment, coupled with a hint of arrogance. There was a time when this would have pissed me off, maybe even pushed me over the edge, but today I didn’t even say a word. All I could remember was wearing the badge myself and talking about how these guys were just wannabe cops who couldn’t make the varsity team.
So maybe I deserved it, yeah?
That’s what I thought for a little while. But after over an hour, I started feeling a little bit like I imagined the cons must feel every day. Something along the lines of “You know what? Fuck these guys.”
So when some guy named Hebert with a thick French Canadian accent asked me for the fifth time who I was there to see, I’d had enough.
“Gar fucking Sawyer,” I snapped and pointed at the paperwork in front of him. “Or can’t you read English?”
Hebert gave me a look that said he routinely scraped things off the bottom of his shoe that rated higher in his book than I did. I radiated back that he rated even lower than that with me.
“You want to watch dat attitude,” he said. “Dere is a process.” He pronounced it pro-sess.
“Your pro-sess is for shit. I’ve answered the same questions half a dozen times.”
“Dis is a prison, Meester Sawyer.” He scowled at me meaningfully.
“No shit. I thought it was the deli.”
His scowl deepened.
I wasn’t finished. “You do know the point is to keep people in these places, right? Not keep them out.”
He blinked at me, as if to say how he’s heard that one a hundred times this week. Then he turned his attention back to the paperwork I’d handed him. “Your prisoner, he is in da hospital wing.”
He slid the papers back under the glass window toward me. “Follow da blue line. Dey will help you dere.”
I thought about asking why in the hell the last guy had sent me to François here in the first place, but could see that he didn’t care one way or the other. For all I knew, the guy at the other end of the blue line would send me right back here. I was there to visit a convict, so they figured jerking me around was just par for the course.
Besides, what the hell was I doing? I wasn’t pissed at Hebert. Much. I was mostly pissed at the fact I was even standing in a fucking prison in the first place. To see the old man.
Still, the whole pro-sess got my Irish up.
“Thanks a lot,” I said. “And say hi to Kermit, you fucking frog.”
Hebert’s eyes flashed in anger. His jaw clenched and set, but he said nothing. Frankly, I was surprised he showed me even that much. Must be a rookie.
“Just follow da blue line,” he said.
I turned and left.
The hospital wing was clean and well lit. The smell of antiseptic cleaners overwhelmed something a little more rotten. It was like when you try to scrub cat piss out of a rug. It just won’t leave entirely, so you end up burning a candle instead. Or you get used to the stench. But either way, it’s still there.
Doctor Bradford wasn’t around, but a male nurse led me to the bay where the old man was sleeping. The large room held at least eight beds, separated by privacy sheets. A couple of the patients lay still and asleep. One, a bald man in his fifties hooked up to a dialysis machine, gave me a lascivious look and flickered his tongue at me.
“Hey, I get out soon, sweetie,” he cooed. “We could have a good time then.”
I ignored him.
“Keep it down, Sal,” the nurse said without turning toward him.
“Nice ass,” Sal whispered as I walked past.
We reached a drawn sheet in the corner of the room. The nurse slid it aside and it held it open for me.
I hesitated, then realized that the time for hesitating had passed. I stepped through into my father’s bed area. The nurse followed.
You think you’re prepared for something like this, but you never are. I figured seeing him again would be hard, whether that meant I got so pissed that I pummeled him or maybe broke down and bawled like a kid when he finds out Santa Claus is a racket. And I was right. It sucked the air out of my chest for a long ten seconds while I stared at him. I wasn’t sure what to call the emotion that was rushing in, but I could feel its intensity, whatever it was.
There was something else, though, too. I was somewhat prepared to see him, but I had no idea he’d look this bad. He’d lost forty or fifty pounds since I saw him last. Maybe sixty. And though he was a large man, it had been all height and wiry muscle. Maybe a thin layer of fat during those times he was working a legitimate job and wasn’t on the run and up all hours.
His ashen skin stretched across the bones of his face. Wisps of hair on his chin were all that remained from the thick goatee he used to wear. The hair on his head had turned white. It looked thin and brittle. His sunken eyes glared out at me with barely concealed hatred.
“My eldest,” he rasped to the nurse. He waved a gnarled, bony finger toward me. “Not much to look at, is he?”
The nurse checked his IV drip. “He’s here to see you in your last hours,” he said. “You should be glad for that. Some of our terminal patients die alone.”
The old man coughed into his hands, but shook his head at the nurse’s comment.
I stood, silent and waiting.
The nurse finished checking things, turned and walked away, leaving us alone. We stared at each other without a word. His eyes burned with that old, intense anger that I remembered as a kid, but it had a frailty to it. Like an old broken down snake that could no longer strike out, but if you came close enough, there was still poison aplenty in those fangs.
I took a seat in a hard back chair near the foot of the bed. He watched me, but I made no move to slide closer to him.
“Why’d you call?” I asked finally. “I mean, if all you wanted to do was insult me, you could have sent a card.” I let a sarcastic smile play out on my lips. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t send cards or letters, do you?”
He smiled humorlessly but said nothing.
“It’s probably better in person, though,” I said. “Right? Dad?”
He let out a small phlegm-filled cough, then wiped something away with the back of his hand. “Still the drama princess, ain’t ya, Michelle?”
I shook my head at him. “What do you want from me?”
He wiped the back of his hand on the sheet. I saw a trace of pink in the smear he left there.
“You shouldn’t have gone with the cops,” he said. “That was a mistake.”
“Really? Well, maybe if you’d been around to guide me instead of doing time in Wisconsin, I would’ve made the right choice where that was concerned.”
“I figure you’d have the sense to know better.”
“Didn’t go so well for ya, though, did it?”
I shook my head. “Not so great, no.”
“I’m sure you get the papers in here. You know what happened.”
“Newspapers are full of shit. Besides, I want to hear it from you.”
I brushed some lint from my jeans. “What does it matter? It didn’t fit me, all right?”
He stared at me like he was trying to stare through me. I held his gaze and kept my expression hard and blank.
Truth is, being a cop had fit me some. Maybe if I grew up in the sixties or seventies, it’d been a perfect fit. Especially in Chicago. But not these days. Not anymore. I couldn’t let him see that, though. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want him to know that a piece of me loved wearing the uniform or that another piece of me could never play by those rules. I just didn’t want to give the old bastard the satisfaction of knowing me any better.
“Didn’t fit, huh?”
“Good gig, though. Lots of tail?”
I shrugged. “Some girls like bad boys. Some like a uniform.”
He chuckled, a rumbling sound in his throat. “Yeah, there’s always that.”
“Is that what you called me out here for? Some belated fatherly career guidance?”
“Hell, no. You’ll find your own way, just like I found mine.”
I raised my eyebrows sarcastically, but didn’t comment.
He noticed my expression. “You got anything going, mister big shot?”
I shrugged. “Just working.”
He smiled, then lifted his own eyebrows mockingly. “Sounds promising.”
“It’s honest work.”
“Honest work never pays big,” he said.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t come with the possibility of seven to ten, either.”
“You work a job like that, you’re doing time. It’s just another kind of time.”
I was getting tired of Gar Sawyer Philosophy 101. “What do you want from me?” I asked him again.
“Doc told you, didn’t he?” he grunted. “I want to say goodbye. And leave you something.”
“Leave me what?”
He shook his head again. “Not until your brother is here.”
“Jerzy? He’s coming here?”
The old man shrugged. “Could be any minute. Could be whenever.”
Figures. He’ll come in his own time, whatever that is. Jerzy is the old man all over again. Maybe worse. I’ve done bad things in my life. Probably do them again if the opportunity were right. Why the fuck not? Nothing comes to you in this life but what you take, at least in my experience.
But Jerzy? He’s just plain bad. Not even for the sake of being bad. He just is.
“I can’t wait around forever,” I told him.
“You came,” the old man rasped. “Which means you’ll stay.”
I wanted to say no, but I saw that small cross leaning against a cold marble urn, and I knew he was right.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “It won’t be long. One way or the other, it won’t be long.”