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Archive for January, 2018

Life together, then apart

INMATES –Good story

Chapter one: All work and no play Start of a new book on ironic situations

Like many popular and entertaining stories, a vicarious peek at two anonymous lives is further proof that life is indeed stranger than fiction.  Life’s twilight zone of reality conspired with fate; testing a newly-wed couple’s avowal of love, events twisted their matrimonial expedition into a test of devoted loyalty shredded by legal wolves, psychological band-aids and ambiguous advice from friends and family.  Standard reactions, trite remarks and the drastic ways of the world played with truth and justice.  Ultimately, only personal intuition and the benefit of the doubt can provide the emotional faith we need to maintain honest relationships slanted by life’s more unexpected events.

 

Toronto, East End.

Zach Forrest was happy; over the last year, he’d studied hard to earn five full credits towards his four-year Honors degree.  Receiving his third year’s high marks in June, he noticed he still needed two credits from a turbulent second year that almost ended his academic dream.  Planning ahead, he chose to work part-time and take two summer school courses to fix his second year blunder; school was over with two weeks left in August—earning a 4.25 GPA.  The credits fulfilled gave him a Bachelor’s degree; one more year of full-time study earned him an Honor’s B.A. in English, with a minor in communications technology.

There was definitely a spring in his step as he walked up the driveway to his parent’s large two-story house in popular suburbia.  With the A+ transcripts from summer school, he could show his father he’d now outperformed his successful PhD cousin, a well-financed product of the elite Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto.  His father’s brother Brad consistently bragged about his marriage to the daughter of a large printing company’s millionaire owner.  ‘Barb Hunt, now Barb Forrest, was a well-heeled product of exclusive Women’s colleges and private schools, and instantly became the darling daughter of Grandma Forrest, a strong and elegant lady who had pursued a life of wealth her entire life.  Grandma declined babysitting help for them, but jumped to look after his cousin.  Along with family approval, his older cousin enjoyed the finest education a family could find.  Tom received but also gave; after the prestigious Upper Canada College, he distinguished himself with U of T’s football team, and helped kids on canoe trips…carving out a successful path into the top echelon’s of Ontario’s Education Board.  He served on the Board of Education for Toronto, working his way to the top-principle for Ontario’s High School system.  Success and power gave him the tools he needed to enact significant changes to the School Board; his loving and caring nature made him a man newspapers loved to profile, while his genuine passion for education made him Zach’s well-respected mentor who showed honest respect for his academic achievements, something he humbly noted surpassed his own G.P.A.  They shared many evenings of literary discussion at Grandmother’s cottage, a beautiful slice of the wilderness purchased by Tom.  Zach respected his cousin for the principles and goals he considered more valuable than money…ensuring all children had a proper childhood, and received an ample education.

Ironically, Zach had grown up around a lot of rich family and friends; he’d heard many stories about people with money, and was familiar with odd behavior by rich relatives.  His mom’s father’s brother was quite the character, and Zach’s favorite uncle.  Around 6 or 7, his family would visit them in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  Uncle Joe had a house on a cliff that overlooked the Beaver River, a railroad line at the bottom.  Zach stayed in a bedroom that faced the river, and he would always associate these family visits with endless trains on the river track.  The trains were so long he’d fall asleep to the sound of trains, and wake up to the sound of a train.  Uncle Joe would insist that these trains were often over ten miles in length, an adult answer that little Zach accepted as truth.  During the day, Zach’s frequent source of amusement was placing pennies on the track and having the train squash them like a pat of butter.  When older, he understood Uncle Joe was the biggest kidder in the family.  It was a busy track, and common for two or three trains to pass nightly.  When Uncle Joe finally passed away, he donated five houses and all his worldly goods to his church…a cousin who owned an antique store took a van down and loaded it with anything he could find, insisting there wasn’t “much of anything” in the large house we always stayed at.  Right…I heard he took a big moving van to collect furniture.

Uncle Joe always treated us to McDonald’s burgers and fries; like a magnanimous king, Uncle Joe would say, “Order as many as you want.”  To a kid, this sounded like a dream.  The idea of generosity endured until he began to understand the value of money.  This was the sixties, and a McDonald’s hamburger was .15 cents, .20 for a cheeseburger.  We would stuff ourselves for under a dollar.

What was really great was the assorted stores, especially the comic book store…they had everything.  He’d take the five or ten dollar windfall he’d saved up and merrily visit different stores that didn’t exist in Canada.  Making money was an early talent for Zack.  In Toronto, a sneaky way to make money was to buy a bunch of McIntosh apples, polish them like jewels, then place them in a tissue decorated fruit basket with a paper-wrapped money can.  Wearing his cub scout uniform, he’d use his bike to go to a distant neighborhood, knock on doors, and say he was collecting for UNICEF, a special collection because the Scout’s apple day was usually a few months away.  He earned more money than Christmas or his birthday.  Zach always felt cheated on his birthday…a fluke of fate decreed that his brother was born on the same day, three years ahead of him.  That meant only one large birthday party.  A friend of his had five siblings, and he’d brag about getting birthday cake all year round, and smaller gifts from relatives that felt guilty only giving to the birthday boy or girl.

That trick was quickly overshadowed: when he got a paper route, he learned how to earn steady cash.  If short on papers, he could just take as many papers as he needed from open honesty boxes.  His route was mainly in the subdivision he lived in, with 7 customers across a main street.  After a few collection days, he began to tell his supervisor some of the distant customers cancelled their subscription, something that happened quite often.  He still delivered and collected, taking the extra papers from the distribution boxes, keeping all the money he collected every two weeks…like a steady paycheck.  Fifteen bucks every two weeks was a gold mine for a kid.  A regular financier with a bank account, he quickly earned over $100 dollars, and became the local shyster…loans up to ten dollars, a dollar a week interest.  If he thought they were dodging him, he’d give a big guy two bucks to scare the hell out of them.  They paid.  When his account started to rise, keeping hundreds in the bank was a problem; maintaining an explainable balance, he hid the rest.  Kids didn’t usually have a few hundred in cash…a good reason to keep it safely stashed.  As he got older, selling pot was a good income, but he had real jobs to explain cash, get a car, and float several bank accounts to spread his wealth.

As he got older, the trips to visit Uncle Joe became financially lucrative.  He loved comics, and felt collections were important and should be well looked after.  America had a lot more comic books than Canada, and he knew which could fetch much higher prices than Canada.  As time passed, that impeccable collection of comics was money in the bank; he always wanted to keep several first editions, and to collect the first twenty comics of every popular figure.  When prices rose, he sold his collection of popular and hard to find first editions. His number #1-20 series of Batman, Superman, The Hulk and many more produced a huge windfall; his pristine copy of Adventure Comic’s #13 brought in $25,000, a more battered version went for $8,000.  Fortunately, he sold them in 1997, well after he was divorced

Toronto, 1987  The wife problems were growing.

Visiting his parent’s place, Zach could tell no one was home.  He fished the spare key from under the cushion of the rear chair…a hiding spot he’d always warned his parents was an open invitation to anyone with half a brain to search for a key…opened the basement door and returned the key.  Stepping into the house, he noticed the door from the kitchen that led to the basement stairs was closed, something his mother would never do unless she was in a hurry.  A memory from high school popped into his mind to make him laugh.  He’d come home late one night and tried to sneak downstairs to his basement room.  All of a sudden, his mother popped out from behind the door and thrust a freshly lit match in his face.  He blew it out while laughing.  Confused and amused at the inane behavior, he had more laughs when he discovered the rationale behind his mother’s thinking.  She’d read some drug pamphlet that said you could tell if someone was high on LSD by looking at their pupils.  The whole folly was her great plan to see his pupils and discover whether he was taking acid.  When slightly back in control, he told his mother he was drunk, and that anyone out on a dark night would have enlarged pupils because eyes become enlarged to let in as much light as they could.  Before heading downstairs to fall into bed, he told his mom the best way to find out if he was on acid was to simply ask him…at seventeen, he didn’t care what his mother knew, and the absurdity of her behavior was something he wanted to put an end to…if she’d do something that stupid to find out about his drug use, she was becoming dangerous.  Two years later, the continued insanity of his home forced him into his first apartment, a much easier life than living in a borderline nut house.  Four years after that, he was married and living in his wife’s aunt’s house…she was in a nursing home, but didn’t want her house sold until she passed away.  Zach saw it as another act of stupidity; they could have bought the house for $60,000 when they first moved in…eight years later, it sold for $170,000…the main reason for their separation and eventual divorce.

With the parents away, Zach helped himself to lunch.  Opening a cupboard to get a glass, he noticed several new prescription bottles.  Out of habit, he checked the labels and contents.  Bingo…one had ten milligram Valiums.  He popped some and put another ten in his pocket…the script was two months old and never touched…his parents weren’t the drug-taking type.  After lunch, he cleaned up and headed back to their High Park home.  By the time the bus came, the pills had started to kick in, and Zach felt great…he finished the work for a basic B.A. with an A average, and he had two weeks of summer left before he started his final year in September.  The merry bunch of pills in his stomach were now mixing with his bloodstream and sending party signals to his brain; he got off the streetcar three blocks from home and grabbed a bottle of vodka.  By the time he arrived home, his normal walking abilities were somewhat scrambled; not quite a full stagger, but definitely a little too much to the left, matched by a few errant steps to the right.  He was feeling the Valiums, and he felt somewhat blasted…too blasted to realize that mixing booze with the Valiums would soon put him outside the realm of normal behavior.

After four drinks, his wife arrived.  Now in a playful mood, he thought this would be a good time to play a few jokes.  Unfortunately, he’d watched the Shining last night, and it ran through his head…Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the deranged caretaker seemed like an easy act to imitate, and good for a few laughs.

While she was in the kitchen, Zach began repeating the news of his recent academic success, and added the lines all work and no play make jack a dull boy.  Something about the performance must have worked, as she soon ran upstairs.  Still thinking this was all a rousing good joke, he grabbed the large chef’s knife and began using it to help him crawl up the stairs, all the time repeating the Jack’s a good boy phrase and “Johnny’s here.”  When he reached the top, Susan darted by and headed out the door.  This reaction proved the joke was successful, and Zach returned to the kitchen for another drink…and a couple more Valiums.  Apart from a major struggle with gravity, the booze and pill combination seemed to give a good buzz.  Zach took the drink into the living room and gratefully secured himself in a solid chair and began to channel surf on the TV.

They had a duplex, and Zach heard a loud knock on his neighbor’s door and decided to have a peak.  Two policemen were there, talking to his neighbor.  This seemed like an interesting situation, so he opened the door and joined the conversation.  Once he started to talk, he realized his mistake: they were there to speak with him.  The overly protective and snotty British neighbors two houses down had insisted on calling the police over his impersonation of Jack Nicholson…explaining it away as a joke didn’t work out too well.  The police confiscated their expensive chef’s knife as evidence, and he was soon on his way to jail.  So much for the two-week vacation he was making plans for…until this got by the court system, his future was jail.

Although no physical contact was made, he was charged with domestic abuse; remanded until his preliminary court date, he was shipped off to the West Detention Center, a new jail he’d never experienced, with new rules of conduct he’d have to learn the hard way.

After a quick court appearance for bail, the instant denial meant he had to wait until the preliminary hearing, two weeks away…two weeks for a practical joke that went awry.  Instead of enjoying the last two weeks of sunny August at the cottage, he was in jail.  Zach knew the strict response was due to those overly uptight English neighbors.  The jail time came from his previous convictions, but not one of those convictions included any violent behavior.  For domestic abuse cases, all subjects were separated, and jail certainly made it a deliberate situation.  Two weeks wasn’t a long time, but any time in jail can sometimes produce complications that make every day a test of endurance, and a fight for survival.  Since this was the West End, he was heading into home ground for a far worse enemy…Bo.

Bo was the younger brother of his friend Stevie.  Stevie was a pal from his Drugstore Cowboy days, and a master at forging scripts who rarely got caught.  He was so exceptional, when he was caught by a convoluted comedy of errors, a dedicated Crown Attorney convinced a Judge that catching Stevie for a fake script was unlikely; he argued they should consider the hundreds of prescriptions they didn’t catch, and to sentence him accordingly.  After showing samples of real and fake scripts, the Crown showed the fake script from Stevie; even the inexperienced Judge could tell it looked more like the real scripts he’d seen, and accepted the Crown’s argument that hundreds of Stevie’s scripts were probably filed all over Toronto, and that his pen-work could be considered a dangerous tool that contributed to the raging problem of illegal pharmaceutical drugs all across Toronto.  Stevie got a deuce less for one prescription; the usual penalty was 30 days up to 6 months.

When Stevie got out he went back to passing his perfect looking scripts: what made his so special was the flamboyant and flowing signature he added…so perfect, they looked like the signer had years of signing his name behind him, hence the swirling loops and stylistic perfection that made them look so real.  While cashing one with my friend Wolf in tow, the pharmacist was probably spooked by Wolf’s six inch knife scar across his chin and tried to get the doctor on the phone.  It was after six o’clock, so there was no way to get the doctor to verify the script.  Wolf got so incensed he walked behind the counter, pushed the cowering pharmacist out of the way, and grabbed a bottle of Percodans and a jug of Novahistex D.H., then ran out of the store.  Stevie encouraged him by yelling “way to go Wolf,” a comment that would be repeated later to help identify Wolf in a court of law.  Wolf had grabbed exactly what they wanted: Wolf liked his Percodans, and Stevie liked his juice.  It was pitch dark out in November, and they headed down into a ravine behind the store and began to imbibe.  Wolf could easily count how many pills he was taking, but sipping narcotic cough syrup from a large 80-ounce bottle was impossible to get right.  The only way to measure would be by filling the large cap, but most of us would just eye-ball the level in the bottle and aim for four ounces.  The Hydrocodone content in the juice made four ounces a good and steady high, while twice that would have you staggering around…when you got up to around ten, you’re reaching that deadly overdose quantity.  Whatever happened to Stevie will never be known, but from Wolf’s story, they got separated, and when Wolf finally found him, he was laying face down in the pond…quite dead.  We all assumed Stevie took too much, couldn’t walk straight because he was nodding out on his feet, and happened to fall face down in the water and fell asleep.  Either way, everyone blamed Wolf for his death, as people thought he should have kept an eye on him; that’s the stone cold sober, light of day outlook, but reality added enough screw ups to make it just another regrettable drug overdose.  Stevie probably guzzled enough to send him near the edge, and I’m sure Wolf gobbled enough Percodan to put him in the same shape.  I once ate 23 Percodans in the back of a cop car to avoid possession charges, so I know what that many Perc’s can do to your normal five senses.  The fact that they were so stoned they got separated made me cut Wolf a little slack, but since I know the difference between a near overdose on both drugs, I think Wolf should have paid more attention to Stevie, as he was no doubt a stumbling, half-asleep, partially mobile wreck that was trying to shake of a near overdose.  They should have hid the drugs, written down the location, and took a cab to the nearest hospital.  Overdosing is an occupational hazard for all Drugstore Cowboys, but when one of us gets taken, we all analyze what went wrong, and if you had a partner there, the ultimate responsibility is on their shoulders…unless, of course, they’re in a hospital emergency ward or intensive care for an extended coma.  Everyone blamed Wolf…and since he was one of my best friends, Stevie’s brother Bo didn’t like me too much, and also tacked on a black-out consequence for which I was totally innocent.  He blamed me for getting pinched on some job he did months before…back when Stevie was still alive to drive him around and dump him on whatever babysitters he could find.

 

Bo wasn’t the best person to get high with; he either took too much or couldn’t handle what he did take.  That made him a mumbling, staggering burn-out that you couldn’t talk to that also had a tendency to break anything that was remotely fragile.  You basically had to keep a constant eye on him unless he passed out.  He also had a problem talking, if you could call incoherent mumbling communication.  It was this tendency to talk that got him busted for the hospital job that earned him 18-months in Cement City…the not so nice, over ninety-five year old Provincial Reformatory in Guelph, Ontario.  It was an old-fashioned jail with bars everywhere, poured cement walls and hallways, a self-contained linen factory that made all the socks and blankets for Ontario jails, various shops, a massive laundry for the three to four hundred inmates, plus an industrial sized kitchen that used over thirty inmates to peel, cook and wash dishes.

Guelph was a working jail, not like the more modern Brampton OCI, or Ontario Correctional Institute; OCI was considered a treatment center, with five different units that specialized in assorted psychological problems…drugs mostly, but they took in some real crazies.  Gratuitous violence would land you in the hole pending an immediate transfer…usually to Cement City.  Unit three was for both long-term offenders and child molesters…no one wanted to get stuck there, but some actually cool dudes were unlucky enough to live with the only jail-house life form lower than rats…diddlers and rapists.  The no violence restriction made them feel safe, and since they considered these guys bona fide nut cases, they took them in from all over the province unless they were also in for murder or extreme violence.

 

On my first and only significant jail term, OCI was used as a classification center; I was transferred there from the Don jail and for me, it looked like a hotel.  Good food, freedom to move around, and bullet-proof glass instead of bars.  They didn’t issue jail clothes, but gave you hand-me-down street clothes that were often the worst colors or designs I’d ever seen; with a lot of psychiatrists moving around, they tried to make it more like a hospital than a jail: carpeted hallways, enclosed areas with benches, and recreation facilities like a music room, gym, weight room, art class, automotive shop and other things that gave you a chance to do something productive with your time.  There were strict rules against fighting and other common offenses, but it had a certain ambiance that didn’t feel like jail; I wanted in.  Visits were in a nicely furnished visiting room with couches and tables, and dark enough to get in some serious action if you were lucky enough to have a girlfriend.  Fortunately, I had a weekly visit from whomever I’d been seeing on the outside, and quickly learned visits with no glass separating you was a perfect set up for smuggling in dope.  Near the end of the visit, we’d get into some hot and heavy embraces; I put whatever package down my pants with extra-sticky tape, and head into the search room with a huge boner…sometimes so excited I was dribbling that pre-sex discharge of semen, a large wet mark visible on the khaki colored pants I usually wore, an obvious male reaction the male guards patting you down avoided like a plague.  I had some packages so large, there was still a lump after little Willie deflated from lack of stimuli.

 

It was also an unwritten rule that after a visit with your girlfriend, you’d be allowed to visit the washroom as soon as you returned to your unit, just so you could relieve the pent-up arousal with your hand.  My girlfriend would wear outfits that gave you a boner just looking at her…hey, we were in jail, remember?  The smuggled drugs won me many good friends…and all of them abided by my rules to keep it cool and never take enough to start staggering.  I’d seen a guy do that in Mimico; after a 3-day pass, he brought in a package I only got to see, and not to sample.  I laughed when we went to dinner; rules were strict, and you had to sit beside the guy in front of you and so on.  Strom got so stoned he got up and started walking around the tables to talk to whoever he felt like…a definite no-no.  In under two minutes he was hauled off to the cooler, and that nifty little package he was proudly showing off got flushed by the guards and earned him 3 weeks of solitaire on restricted diet…the awful meatloaf sandwich that wasn’t even meat.

 

Anyway, my first impressions of OCI aside, I didn’t get to stay, I earned Cement City.  I’d been in the Don for five months, and the doctors there gave me 10 mg. of Valium every four hours and 100 mg. of Seconal at night.  When I saw the doctor at OCI, I was in full-blown benzo withdrawal, and I asked if I could get my valiums or even just a taper down dose.  They considered that request for drugs a sign that I didn’t want to give up drugs, so I wasn’t suitable for OCI.  Ironically, my benzo withdrawals were so bad I was shaking and had a B.P. of 180 over 120; I pleaded my cause for a legitimate case of withdrawals that were so bad it could be considered cruel and unusual punishment to make me go through them without any help whatsoever.  After five days, I was shaking so bad I had a melt-down in the normal looking cafeteria and got hauled off to the institution’s hospital.  My vitals were all over the chart, but they still didn’t associate my condition with the fifty milligrams of valium I’d been taking while in the Don.  Their doctor had left for the day,  so they sent me to the local hospital; out of the pure blue sky I encountered a considerate and humane doctor.  I told her my story about the high dose of Valium I’d been on for over 4-months, and she was speechless when I told her the jail refused to give me anything.  She came up with some believable anxiety/neurological condition, started me on a week-long taper down program, and kept me in Brampton General for a week.  No restraints, almost unlimited visits and half-decent food was a God-send; after seven days I returned to the jail, and she discharged me with a two 5-mg. per day prescription.  Because she was a real street doctor, they followed her instructions, and I was finally allowed to cut down to a manageable dose when it ran out.  Needless to say, this didn’t help my case to prove I deserved to serve my time in their treatment program.  I applied for later consideration, and finally got to serve the last 3-months of my sentence there…a place much closer for my visitors to reach.  After 2-months at Guelph, OCI was like getting out of real jail and getting a bed in some low-class hotel…then again, anything was better than Cement City.

 

Guelph was where Bo did his entire 18-month sentence, so whoever he tried to blame his bust on was someone Bo really wanted revenge on.  Ironically, that sentence turned Bo from a dead beat, mentally deranged kid into a hardened criminal; time in the weight room increased his size, and the lack of drugs finally allowed him to speak coherently.  He actually made friends while he was in there…friends he no doubt entertained with his great theory on how he got busted.

 

Someone talked.  Cops don’t just show up at your door a few months after the fact unless they found something that connected you, or someone gave them a name.  Unfortunately, Bo talked to just about everyone about his big score on the hospital, and any one of those people could have turned him in.  He scored a large supply of strong, injectible opiates like morphine, Leritine, Dilaudid, and Demerol: for some reason, he liked the Demerol, something I usually turn my nose on.  Maybe a week after his score, my late friend Stevie stopped at my place and asked if I’d look after him for a few hours; I got paid with a few hits of Leritine, so I thought how hard can it be…after an hour, I wished I’d held out for a better payment.  A couple of friends dropped by, along with some guys I didn’t know; always one to babble, Bo starts telling them all about his big score, the only thing he had to talk about.  Later on, when Bo was counting off the suspects who could have named names, he didn’t consider the people he told at my place, and focused on the people he knew.  After Stevie’s death, I think he wanted to believe Wolf gave him up, but truth be told, he looked up to Wolf, and knew he’d never rat on anyone.  I think the same thing worked for me, but after his jail sentence toughened him up, he began to remember the people he knew he told, but totally forgot he told anyone who’d listen exactly what he did.  I also recall someone I know that got pinched and then got bail, an outcome I knew was fishy as he’d already earn two fail to appears, and if you have that on your record, you never get bail.  Was he the rat?  Possibly, but I know almost a dozen people who fit, so I doubt anyone will ever really know…it’s not something people usually share or brag about.

Knowing all this and knowing Bo spent a lot of time in the West, I had my wife to worry about, and the possibility Bo had spread my name around like it was mud.  Like some unexpected bolt of lightening, what saved me was also something that almost earned me a severe beating.  I hung up the one inmate phone on the unit while the biggest, toughest and naturally lethal guy on the range was talking to his girlfriend.  In my defense, phones on the units were a new feature since I’d last been in jail, and I didn’t know the etiquette or phone rules.  I saw the receiver dangling off the hook, watched it for five minutes, and when no one seemed to be using it, I tried calling the only person who could get me out…my wife.

It was a short call.  I returned to the game of cards I was in and considered my options.  I didn’t get a chance.  All of a sudden, this totally ripped, tattoo-covered mountain of a man instantly silenced the whole range by asking “Who hung up the phone?”

Well, I’m always someone that owns up to my actions.  I timidly stuck up my hand, and quietly confessed.  I did the right thing and walked over…just in case he wanted to end my feeble existence.  He was mad.  Turning around, talking to himself, he kept repeating “You don’t hang up the receiver if it’s off the hook.”  I was expected a vicious shot in the head at any moment, but meekly explain I hadn’t been in for a while and phones were new to me, and I didn’t know he was using it…I pleaded for my life by admitting my stupidity.  He asked how long I’d been out and how long I’d previously done…when he asked about my history, I had a faint glimmer of hope that I might live through this.  I told him how long I’d served, told him the frigging, low-life Parole board turned me down (something I was sure he could relate to), and how I’d managed to avoid the cops for two years.  My life had stopped flashing before my eyes, as I saw he wasn’t some dumb pile of muscle, and was perhaps putting on a show to make sure everyone on the range knew he was the Alpha male…dispute at your own risk.  He was still turning in circles, but I wasn’t seeing a punch come flying out as he pivoted.  Then he asked me what I was in for: that’s when I hoped he had problems with women, as I wasn’t about to lie about anything.  I said domestic dispute, but nothing happened, I didn’t touch her, and my wife only called the cops because two dick-head neighbors told her what to do.  A few seconds passed, and then he broke out laughing.  He finally mentioned what a bunch of bitches they can turn out to be, then grasped my should in a bear-like grip and said, “Don’t worry about it…just don’t hang up the phone if the receiver is dangling…it usually means someone’s gone for a piss or something and they’ll be right back.  I assured him I would never do something like that again.  That was my first meeting with Karl.

 

The next time I spoke with Karl, he’d just come back from a visit and I just happened to be standing by the barred door.  He saw me, and said, “So you know Wayne?”  I was too speechless to think of who he was talking about, but desperately wanting to please him I agreed.  I later learned he was my good buddy Wayne Daly’s uncle Karl…the family bank robber and Federal inmate.  After that, I got invited into Karl’s kingdom.  He was going back and forth to court a lot, and he got me put in his cell, to “Watch his stuff.”  Every week, if you had money, inmates were allowed to make purchase orders: real cigarettes, cigars, soap, nice shampoo, baby powder, pop and chip…mostly anything that you could get in a variety store except anything that could be a weapon.  They did allow fingernail clippers.  When people knew they were getting out on bail, they gave all their stuff to Karl before they went to court.  That act of homage created a massive collection of just about anything you could use to make jail a more civilized experience.  Making friends with Karl was a fluke, and my fear of running into any of Bo’s friends disappeared, as no one messed with anyone Karl knew, especially his cell mate.  I got a visit from Wayne a week later as he was already there to see Karl, and asked if I’d met him.  I told him the story and listened as he filled me in on his uncle Karl and some of the stuff he got involved with…he didn’t need guns to scare people, but he liked pulling them out during a robbery, a hobby that landed him in the big house several times.

Life on the range was a breeze after I met Karl.  The wife and I had made up on the phone, and she apologized for putting me in jail, and blamed it on those meddling English neighbors.  They were the ones who called the cops, she was just sitting in their living room with a beer.  My court date arrived, the Crown withdrew the charges and mentioned a reconciliation, and the cops gave us back the chef knife.  I was soon back home, popping less Valiums, and enjoying a Screwdriver with a moderate amount of alcohol.  I gave up the Jack Nicholson impressions.

School started, I bought my books, and got ready to finish my fourth year.  About a month into school, a friend of mine showed up with the contents of a pharmacy he’d just robbed.  Well, it’s always been hard for me to say no to certain drugs, and he had all the ones I knew and loved.  After two weeks, I was semi-strung out, mostly craving the buzz I knew so well.  Incredibly, my future would again change, turning into a secret hell that not too many people could imagine.  I’d return to jail, and have a face to face meeting with Bo.

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