Dedicated to Captain Hilts- a real 'Miracle Worker.'
"Ya gotta let me out, man! I didn't do it, I swear!"
"Of course you didn't," I mutter, lighting another cigarette as I lean against the bars of his cell.
"Hey," the new prisoner shouts. "Hey, you! You gotta let me out! Ya hear me?"
I roll my eyes.
"I'm innocent! It wasn't me! Ya gotta believe me!"
"Keep shouting, Gallaso," I tell him. "I'm about to let you out. I swear. You gotta believe me."
"I'm telling the truth!"
"Yeah, and so is every other scumbag in maximum security."
"Please. Ya gotta help me!"
Help me. Help me. Stupid words, really, when you think about it. By the time you're asking for help, it's already too late, isn't it?
I would know.
"Give it up, Gallaso," I mutter, shaking my head.
"…But I can't give up," he murmurs. "I can't."
I don't know why it bothers me, but it does. I hate it when people hope, especially in a prison. I turn around so I'm facing his cell.
"Look, you're new here, so I'm gonna explain something to you, alright? This is maximum security. There's no way out of here. It's over. So just give up."
"You don't understand," he tells me. "I didn't do it."
I grab the bars of his cell and glare at him.
"You can say it a million times, but that doesn't make it any more true. You might be able to fool the other guards, and the cops, and the judge, and anyone else who'll listen. But you can't fool another liar."
I glance down the hallway as the door opens. It's Jackson, probably coming to tell me that the guys from the night shift are here.
Immediately I feel better. My shift is over.
As I pull my hands away from the bars, I catch Gallaso's eye.
"You're not a liar," he says softly.
I back up, trying to look away. But his eyes are like quicksand. The harder you struggle the deeper they drag you.
"You don't know anything about me," I hiss.
"But I do, Richard. I know you very well."
I feel my heart stop.
I never told him my name.
"Hey, Reiben," Jackson says from behind me. "You okay?"
And just like that, the spell is broken. Something in Gallaso's eyes change, and I look away.
"…How do you know my name?" I ask him quietly. But he just stares at me blankly.
"I don't," he says. "Why would I know you're name?"
That's what I want to know.
"Never mind," I tell him, shaking my head.
I turn around and face Jackson.
"Are the guys from the night shift here yet?" I ask distractedly.
"They're gonna be late," he says.
He glances at the floor.
"…It's not like you have anywhere to go, anyway," he mumbles.
I feel my ears burn.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask.
But Jackson only shakes his head.
"Nothing, Reiben… Nothing."
A year ago, I would've argued.
Although, a year ago, Jackson and I could stand in the same room without feeling lost, and a little empty, as if a few people are missing. And they are.
A year ago it was 1944 and I was drowning in bloody water.
A year ago I was in France and Caparzo was bleeding on the ground, the rain pouring down on us and…
I turn and walk down the tier, past murderers, past death row prisoners, past the scum who will never walk barefoot again, men who will never leave this prison, men who will always be hated by society… and I wish I could be one of them. Because no matter what memories run through their minds day after day as they're locked in their filthy cells, no matter how badly they make them cringe… they will never be as horrible as mine.
What are you thinking?
Who is this guy? Does he ever stop feeling sorry for himself?
Well, why don't you ask yourself this instead…
If war is hell, then what comes after?
"Hey, Jackson?" I yell after him as he heads to the door.
"Huh?" he asks, spinning around to face me.
"Do you still remember her?"
"…Reiben," he pauses, then sighs. "You gotta let her go…"
I step back, because I know that's impossible.
"… I can't," I whisper. And then I wonder- is this how Gallaso feels?
Jackson turns away.
"…She wasn't what you would call a listener," he says softly.
"…No," I whisper, because suddenly it's too hard to speak. "She wasn't. She was a… creative thinker,"
"Yeah, that's one way to put it," he mumbles.
I can't help it - I laugh. Lightly, but Jackson hears. He spins around in surprise. And then I guess he can't help it either, because suddenly we're both laughing. We get louder and we keep laughing until we don't even know why we're laughing.
But I guess that's the best kind of laughter, isn't it? As Elizabeth would say, you don't need a reason to do anything.
And just like that I stop laughing.
As the tears hit the floor, I step back in surprise, because I don't do this. I never cry. And I especially don't cry in front of people.
That's how I realize that they're not my tears.
"Jackson?" I ask, because it has to be him. We're the only people in this hallway.
But he doesn't here me because he's too busy staring in shock at Gallaso.
Who's standing next to me.
I spin around and yank at Gallaso's empty cell door, but it's locked. There's no way he could've gotten out of that cell.
And yet he's standing next to me.
At the least, I would've heard him open the cell door. I mean, I was standing right in front of it. And I definitely would've heard him close the cell door.
And how the hell did he lock it back up?
I search my uniform for my keys, but… they're still there. Did he steal Jackson's keys? Jackson searches his uniform and… pulls out his keys.
How was this possible?
I shove the Gallaso against the cell opposite his as Jackson unlocks the empty cell.
Gallaso stares at me, wide-eyed, tears still rolling down his face. He has that look again, like quicksand, and I can't look away.
"You think it's all your fault," he whispers to me. "She needed you… and you just let her go."
But the strangest thing is… he doesn't say it in a threatening way, as if he's trying to play mind games with me. No. He says it in a kinder way. And it seems to me that he's trying to tell me something.
That he forgives me.
I tighten my jaw.
"You don't know what you're talking about!" I shout at him, tightening my grip on his neck.
"Please," he chokes out. "Please. It's not your fault. It's too late to help her, but please, please… at least help me."
Jackson grabs one of Gallaso's shoulders, and I let go of his neck to grab the other. Together, we throw him into his cell. I slide the door closed and Jackson locks it back up.
Shaking, I slide down the wall onto the floor.
Jackson does the same thing on the opposite wall.
"How did he get out?" he whispers.
"… He knows," I croak.
"How to get out?"
"No… what we did. He knows what we did," I whisper hoarsely. Jackson stares at Gallaso as if he knows some dark, horrible secret. Which he probably does.
But, no. He can't know. We were the only people there, the only people who saw... what we did. He can't know. He just can't.
Still shaking, I stand up walk down the hall in a daze.
There's no way Gallaso could've gotten out of that cell unnoticed. There's no way he could've gotten out, period.
And even if he had gotten himself out, why would he hang around crying when he could've escaped?
That's another thing. Prisoners don't cry.
"Reiben," Jackson comes up behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder.
The thing about prison is, no one touches you. Ever. Because when people hate you enough to want to lock you away forever, it hurts to be touched.
And when you spend every day guarding Brooklyn's most wanted, knowing that you're no better than them, that one wrong move could've landed you in the cell right next to them, you learn to hate being touched, too.
Or, if you're like me, and you know that there's a cell reserved just for you, a cell that you're bound to be thrown in soon, because it's just a matter of time before someone discovers your secret… well, then it burns to be touched.
But that's just me.
"We had to do it," he says. "You know that."
I turn around to face him, and he takes his hand off my shoulder.
"No judge in Brooklyn is gonna believe a word you say," I tell him, my voice cracking. "And you know that."
"What's goin' on?" someone says from the doorway.
I spin around and come face to face with one of the night guards, Mikowsi, who's frozen with his hand on the door, waiting for us to do something.
"Nothing," I say quickly. Too quickly.
I push past him, into the outer room where I throw my gun onto the table and head to the second door, the one that leads outside.
"Gallaso got out," I hear Jackson tell Mikowski.
"Who's Gallaso?" Mikowski asks.
"The new guy," I mutter.
"How'd he get out?" Mikowski asks in surprise.
"We were standing right in front of his cell," he says. "I don't know how he got out."
"How'd you get him back in?"
Jackson glances at me.
"Violently," he says, and follows me out the door.
On the way to my car, I run into Sorelli, the other Q-tier night guard, and a few other night guards from different tiers.
I slide into the front seat, and Jackson gets in the passenger side.
My hands shake as I light a cigarette.
"How would Gallaso know what we did?" Jackson asks me after a while.
Turning on the old car, I think about the new inmate.
"He said it wasn't my fault… what happened to her," I say quietly as I pull the car out of the prison parking lot.
Headlights dance across the windshield and reflect across the wet street.
"Maybe he wasn't talking about you," Jackson says thoughtfully.
"What?" I ask.
But Jackson just looks out his window as if he regrets saying anything.
"What do you mean?"
"It sure rains a lot here," he murmurs, still staring out the window.
I pull the car over and kill the engine. The night guards were late, a prisoner escaped, I feel like I'm going crazy, and there's no way in hell I'm just gonna sit here and be ignored after all I've been through.
"Jackson," I say. "What do you mean he wasn't talking about me?"
Slowly, he turns his head to look at me.
"…Do you know why Gallaso is in jail?" he asks just as slowly.
Jackson looks out the window again.
"…He killed a little girl, Reiben," he murmurs.
I look away. A year ago, that wouldn't have bothered me. It happens all the time in New York. But that's the thing about being a bleeding heart, I guess.
Once your heart's broken, the only thing it's capable of, really, is bleeding.
But nothing bleeds forever. I know. I've seen it happen.
Eventually it just dies.
"Maybe he was just talking about himself," Jackson says dismissively.
Suddenly, I'm angry. That guy killed a little girl. And he was crying? What if it had been Elizabeth he killed? And he asked me for help?
He asked me for help.
He asked me to help him.
"But he couldn't have been talking about himself," I say. "He told me it was too late to help her… and then he asked me to help him. He wouldn't have asked himself to do that, right?"
"Reiben, he's a prisoner on death row," Jackson says, staring at me incredulously. "People get weird in there."
I stare at him for a second, then turn the car back on. Shaking my head, I pull back onto the road.
A few minutes later, I pull up in front of a run-down apartment building.
I live at 57 Worth Street.
"What are you going to do to him?" Jackson asks.
"You're gonna have to kill him," he murmurs.
I hate my job. Of all the tiers on the prison, I get stuck with Q-tier, maximum security. I don't open the trap door, I just tie the noose. Is it still murder if you do it indirectly?
"I'm just gonna do my job," I say quietly.
"… You're relating this guy to her," Jackson says slowly.
"No, I'm not. I just think it's weird that this new prisoner killed a little girl, managed to escape out of a maximum security cell, and knows about Elizabeth."
Jackson is quiet for a while.
"When you love someone," he says hoarsely. "No matter what you tell yourself, it stops being a job."
"What is it, then?"
I freeze. Is that what I want? Revenge? Could I get revenge by killing Gallaso? Would that make this whole nightmare go away? But Gallaso isn't the source of my problem, he's the source of someone else's.
"I'm not looking for revenge," I say quietly.
"Then what am I looking for?"
Jackson doesn't say anything, just turns and stares out the window.
Finally, he turns back, looks me right in the eye, and I swear he knows exactly what I'm thinking.
"It's a prison, Reiben. If you're looking for a miracle, then you're looking in the wrong place."
And suddenly I feel like I know what I'm supposed to do. I think of the pleading look in Gallaso's eyes. I think of the way he begged me to help him. I think of the way he cried. Of the way he talked about me like he knew me. Of the way he didn't even try to escape. Maybe he didn't even want to escape, maybe he really did just want my help. And I think of the way he somehow got out of that maximum security cell without a sound. What if Gallaso doesn't want me to help him escape? What if he wants me to help him redeem himself instead?
And I think that maybe, just maybe... Gallaso doesn't want me to save his life. What if he wants me to save his soul?
Isn't that a miracle in itself?
"What if I'm not looking, Jackson?" I ask hoarsely. I glance a the street sign- Worth, and all the pain of the last year hits me like a wave. "What if I already found one?"