Control what you can control.
You would think this would be easy, even in the nick, because I’d had so much bloody practice at it. I’d been controlling what I could control, to advantage and profit, at least until me arrest, for so long it was second nature. No thought was required. Hiding in plain sight it was easy to stay away from other people, to form no friendships except for being force-fed the lesbian couple and even then, that was more to avoid causing offense – the ultimate crime of me people – and to stay celibate because that was what was necessary to ensure I stayed free.
But the truth was it was getting more and more difficult to control what I could control in the nick because I had little control over anything. I was a captive and let me tell you something, few do custody as they do here in the States. It was first-class, five-star, utterly magnifique confinement, as secure as it was demoralizing. I was told when I would be eating and when I would be sleeping and when I would wake up. I was locked in me cell from after dinner till breakfast when me cell door was unlocked and I could use the dayroom though what in the hell was I going to do there, play racquetball? All it offered was more space to do nothing. Screws came and went throughout the day, so much so that the Firm would have to have the entire force on the payroll if they were going to spring me.
I could read, always an enjoyable pastime, but somewhat less enjoyable since it was all I could really do. There was a TV in the dayroom but that was unwatchable even for someone doing time. There was a radio, too, but I’d never really been into music and I was hardly interested in hearing people yap all day. Every couple of days I was taken to the roof for some fresh air which in this city was more or less the same as inhaling a gas pipe. I could jump around and flail me arms like an idiot and perhaps even liven up the day by jumping over the side. It got me some sunshine, though, which I was grateful for.
It was tough not knowing what would happen. It was tough knowing I was innocent, but that bitterness was overcome by the sheer magnitude of both the time I was doing now and the time I could possibly be doing the rest of me life. Invariably, I’d think of Monica and Constable the cat and my stomach would sink and me heart would break. This was supremely difficult, much more difficult than me first stint in the nick years ago. Heck, much more difficult than anything I’ve been obliged to endure.
One of the books that came around the library cart was on meditation. I was skeptical because I’m shallower than a puddle and this seemed pretty deep, but I figured it couldn’t hurt and Lord knows I had the time. The book was very readable. It talked about peace coming from the inside and not from external forces which I was open to because right now me external forces were pre-trial motions and a murder trial and maybe an execution. It talked about waking up in the morning, determining what you were meant to do with your life that day – what was on your path – and then going out and doing it. There was some twaddle about following your heart and trusting your instincts that made me think of the athletes I saw at the Games, the ones with focus and determination, something to get up for in the morning.
Ha! Something to get up for in the morning. Nowadays all I woke up for was going back to bed so I could wake up tomorrow and go back to bed again. It’s what I was being warehoused for: getting by day to day, merely to put meself in a position to be tried for a murder I didn’t commit.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that had always been the case, even before the nick. I was hiding in plain sight one day so I could hide in plain sight the next day and there was really no prospect of ever doing anything else. And even before that, me entire life, really, I wasn’t doing much else: I’d wake up, steal some things, move some whores, collect the odd ransom, wake up and do it again tomorrow.
Most of the things the book talked about were far out of me control.
Or were they? Control what you could control. I’ve always done a pretty good job of that, though it couldn’t do anything about the rotten luck that put me here because that was out of me control.
The book talked about meditating and deep breathing. While I was pretty limited in what I could do from a cell or a dayroom I reckoned I could probably do that.
It advised to sit in a quiet, dark place. Bloody hell, even that was a challenge because there was a light on in the nick. Me cell light was off at night, I controlled it, but there was a light in the dayroom and generally one in the office, too. And forget about quiet. Me cell was next to an office that was pretty busy during the day.
But I couldn’t control that, just like I couldn’t control some copper overhearing me in the queue at the pastry store, so why worry about it?
Controlling what I could control, I started sitting quietly on me bed, back against the wall and me legs crossed and hands on me knees, sort of like Buddha. It was neither completely quiet nor dark, but it was what I had.
Sitting quietly wasn’t easy, no bloody way. At first, I couldn’t make it a couple of seconds before some thought or sound would demand me immediate attention. What would the screws think? What nonsense was I up to? Was I trying to become Buddha? Later I would realize that this was the start of a journey to the core of what I was about. Like some others, I preferred not to make that journey. But I kept at it over the years. And while I never really became completely adept at this, I did become comfortable with it and it wasn’t too long before I was able to block out everything but being alone with meself.
It helped. As the trial date got closer I found meself less anxious. Hardly completely calm, I was in the nick and might well die in the nick one way or another, but I was able to detach a little, particularly in court, where at times it seemed I was merely a spectator and not a participant.
It was really nothing more than controlling what you could control. I could control me immediate surroundings. I could control what I had for lunch.
More than that, I could control meself. There was power in that. It helped as the monotony of the days multiplied into the monotony of years and the years brought me closer to facing eternity.
Abigail came by the day before our discovery hearing, which was towards the end of me first full week in the nick. She said this was when we would find out what kind of case, if any, the prosecution had, what evidence they had and what witnesses they had, how they planned to prove I assassinated the ambassador. I wanted to get smart and say how could they prove what I didn’t do, but I remembered Abigail’s caveat that actual guilt or innocence sometimes had little bearing on the verdict in this country. Abigail said after discovery she would really be able to get to work.
As usual, she had an update on Constable the cat. These were funny because Constable’s a cat for Pete’s sake, there really isn’t much to update. They eat and sleep and sit on the window sill and groom themselves. Abigail made it very interesting, though. She’d report on Constable’s position when she entered me flat and whether she had eaten a lot and even reported when she cleaned his cat box. She had been coming around for less than a week so she wasn’t favored with petting privileges yet, but Abigail reported she wasn’t hissed at, either.
The hearing was dreary, even considering me life might well have been in the balance. A lot of dry, technical matter I didn’t understand. Some might be spellbound, considering the significance, but I couldn’t be bothered.
From the start witnesses had said the man leaving the vicinity of the area the shots had come from was trim and a bit shorter than average and that certainly described me. They had video coverage. It wasn’t me, but at that distance it was a close enough resemblance. Coverage of me leaving the other way didn’t seem to be available. They said they had witnesses, too. They weren’t there, but we were provided a list. Our work was cut out for us. The event was several years ago for Pete’s sake and it is unlikely anyone got a real good look at the shooter and if they did what reason would they have to remember him? They could easily be talked into believing it was me. Abigail mentioned this, too.
After I had been nicked the constable had been asked why I was there in the first place. I got cheeky and said I was out for a walk, saw the crowd and got curious. Nobody really believed that but I couldn’t very well say I was part of an international kidnapping plot, could I? There would be even more questions and I couldn’t very well implicate the Firm, especially since this wasn’t their fault. Besides, the government would still believe their evidence. I could have very easily been there in me kidnapping role while freelancing a murder. What I did there was more germane than why I was there and I found meself unable to prove I didn’t fire a gun. You can’t prove a negative, of course, but that’s where I was.
I had a visitor one day. I hardly recognized the elderly woman as the screw escorted her out of the office towards the barred barrier to the dayroom. It couldn’t have been me mother. I like to think I would have recognized her and besides, I’d heard she was long dead but I could never be bothered to know for sure. I was getting ready to issue the cordial greeting instinctive to me people when our eyes met.
The women responsible for my wealth and for Monica and, probably in some big picture context, for me confinement. Had it not been for the education she had provided in five-star, luxury living who the hell knows how me life would have ended up?
An almost interesting query, really. Had I never met Beth I probably would have remained a petty criminal, running my usual hustles and rackets, running tricks through me flats for romps with me whores and probably in the nick more often than not and maybe even dead. Quite. Who knew? Who cared, really?
The screw opened the barred door to let Beth in and we sat at the wooden circular table. Beth said she recognized both me name and me photo when she saw them in the paper. She lived in the city, close by, too, in a penthouse in a building a few blocks from here. Her driver had a go trying to find a place to park, copper facilities not really made for limo arrivals, but he made it work. She was smaller than I remembered her and, working some figures, I reckoned she had to be in her late 70’s. Though she needed a cane now, Beth otherwise seemed healthy and her mind was still sharp, especially if she remembered me and my nonsense.
She thought, perhaps, under my current circumstances I could use a friend. Bless her bigger-than-I-thought heart. She was right. I could use a friend. Abigail had earned me complete trust, of course, but I missed Constable the cat terribly and it was good to see a familiar face. For some reason, she felt the need to apologize for abruptly stopping her visits. She stopped coming to town because, as she put it, she was going through a spell and it was difficult to leave the country. She didn’t say what that spell was, though later she would. Beth would visit me regularly over the next few months because neither of us had anything much to do. We were both in the same boat, both enduring our own confinements, marking off the days until we died.
She added she greatly enjoyed our times together and always wondered what happened to me. I told her. There was no reason not to. One, she was responsible for it and two, her prison probably showed her as much time to waste as my days showed me. I told her I had learned the five-star lessons she had provided well. I told her about Rachel and how we were on the outs when I asked her if she wanted to make some money and she said yes and how eventually I got rich providing classy young women who knew how to behave in and out of the sack to wealthy and eventually royal men. She nodded approvingly and asked specifically how much money I’d made. I told her and she nodded approvingly again, saying that was a fair-sized fortune.
I told her I wasn’t an assassin and she said she knew that and nodded approvingly again. I asked after her. She waved a hand. She said she had all the complications money and a tedious family and divorce brings. Her ex-husband was dead and she was out of her kids’ lives and she seemed relieved by that. She asked if I’d ever acquired a family and I said no. She said that was good while again nodding approvingly.
We chatted pleasantly for a half-hour or so. She asked if she could visit again and I said of course. She got up with both hands on her cane and I stood up to escort her to the door and she gave me a peck on the cheek.
After Beth left a screw asked me who that was. When I told him an ex he seemed skeptical, though he did ask if we’d be wanting a conjugal visit next time.
I wondered if Monica knew about any of this and if she did, did she care?
Chapter 12: Monica
Chapter 14: Abigail’s Briefing