Fate is a funny thing, it never hesitates to kick a man in the jimmies. Oh, I don’t mean that inexorable fate crap, where your entire life is planned before you’re even born. That crap is for losers. Real fate is the random chance, the one in a million shot that always seems to shake hands with Murphy’s law. It always cascades like a waterfall too, one random thing leading to the next, escalating until you wondered why you tried to fight the tide of shit at all.
And of course sometimes fate doesn’t shake hands with Murphy, she french’s him full on the mouth in an embarrassing display.
Those were the best words my father ever said to me, and now he’s dead. Cold in the ground in a potter’s field next to Mom for the last several months. Killed by the big C and crappy medical treatment. My phone alarm beeped; my uncles, his two brothers, were getting out of state lock-up today, and were finally going to get to see the grave after serving years for robbery.
The irony was they served less time than Dad had, and he was better at robbing people than they were. A long line of pirates and thieves, so I was told, my family went back to before the war for independence. My grandfather and father were gentleman thieves of the old mold, with scores in the millions despite not hurting a soul. They both got caught at varying times in their career, but Dad had straightened out and met Mom (or maybe met Mom, then straightened out) while grandpa had gone on to steal something, gotten caught by the FBI, then sent away until he died in prison, one of the last true gentlemen crooks around.
By contrast, my uncles were both armed smash and grab artists. Small time thugs. Grandpa had hated them while dad had pitied them. Mainly because between them they might actually have one working brain. In short, they were too stupid to learn the family business. Grandpa had always said they had all the lust of our blood, but none of the ability. And me, I had both, but Mom and Dad had wanted me to stay out of jail. Grandpa had trained me on the sly, and so had Dad, neither knowing the other was doing it.
I gave myself a mental shake and got into my car, an old mustang cloth top. I wasn’t prone to trips down memory lane; the idea of seeing my uncles again must be bringing out the worst in me.
Neither Sal or Lester could drive, even if they had a car, and while I was tempted to have them take the one bus from the state prison. But if I did that I’d never hear the end of it, and they were the only family I had left. Maybe they could actually help me build a new life. This whole living in my car thing and odd jobs thing I was doing was getting old.
Getting emancipated before my Dad died had kind of shot me in the foot; I was barely old enough to have a job if I lied about my age a little. I had no idea how I was going to put my uncles up in my crappy one bedroom apartment with the spongy floor and bad plumbing.
It said something that the graveyard that my parents were buried in wasn’t that far from the state prison. Not sure what it said, I wasn’t a poet. But I knew it said something. My grandpa was a few plots away; I remembered when they planted him, a few years ago. Sal and Lester, my two idiot uncles, hadn’t been allowed to attend even though they were half an hour away. They were able to watch by video feed, however, or at least Dad and I had been told that’s why the camera was there.
It had just been the preacher, dad, me, one reporter (which was mildly insulting for a man like my grandpa, even if his piece in the paper mourning the death of the last gentleman robber was well done) and one FBI agent. Who had at least waited for the service to end before grilling us on thefts halfway across the globe, that my family had no part in.
At least it was a nice day to drive in; warm and sunny.
Before I knew it I was there. Pulling up and parking was fine, but getting out? Stepping foot on that plot, that acreage of sheer misery? It gave me the creeps. Even in the sun the barred and fenced in concrete seemed to hunch like a hungry beast at the side of the road.
If I wasn’t careful, the looming building would swallow me.
The illusion was only heightened by walking into the shadow of the building. Waiting outside the main door was as far as I was willing to go. I hadn’t stepped foot in a prison before, and I wasn’t about to start now.
But despite waiting till the last minute, Sal and Lester weren’t here. They should already be outside, waiting on me. I looked around, and nothing. It was too early for the bus to have been here, and that guy in the yard pumping iron, who seemed to be made entirely of tattoo? He was staring at me from across the two fences.
I flipped him off idly and he missed a rep; his spotter had to save him. Honestly, serves him right for not focusing. Where were my wayward uncles?
My battered old phone showed me the schedule again. New releases were supposed to be released by three. The bus schedule was 8:50, 10:50, 1:10, and 3:15. It was now 3:07. I waited, idly watching the guard rotations. They were pretty tight, but there were a few minutes along the southwest side that could probably be used to do all manner of things, if someone wanted.
The bus came, the main door opened and some people got on it. My uncles were not among those. No one got off the bus. Come to think of it, there was no bus on the route after three. Were you required to have a car if you were a night shift guard here, or walk? Seemed a little shady.
Both the prison door and the bus door closed; I stepped well out of the way as the bus passed. There were no prisoners on it that I could see.
Up close the door was manned by two guards under glass, one on either side of it. They had slots they could aim a gun out of if they needed, but anyone trying to get to them would be crap out of luck. And of course they saw me, they had probably been watching since I pulled in.
“Step close, sir.”
Well if I left now I might make it, but they might catch and run my plate as a matter of course, so it wouldn’t really get me anything other than another visit from child services or something else.
Besides, my uncles knew I was picking them up, so they wouldn’t just walk off because I was a little late. They were both penniless and knew I wouldn’t spring for beer if they ditched me. I stepped up and a little hatch opened under the window, and a tray slid out. “ID.”
Huh. One part state cop, one part bank teller.
I took my wallet out and tossed it in the tray. As far as I knew it was only a visiting day, so there should only be one reason for me, a scruffy looking kid in dirty clothes, to be here. But just in case it wasn’t, I stated it clearly while he looked at my license. I had to distract him from looking too closely at the thing, after all; it wouldn’t be correct for a few weeks yet.
Getting busted for a fake ID of all things would be ironic.
“Step to the door.”
I did so and he buzzed me in. I walked the short hall and through the metal detector, waving to the cop standing there with his thumbs hooked in his belt and disgust on his face. I didn’t really blame him; the way he patted me down, he was probably touching everything he didn’t want. He waved me through and I picked up my wallet from the tray beside him. Must be a conveyor belt somewhere, I hadn’t seen the guy under glass move. Another possible breach point cataloged, for what it was worth.
Then the inner door opened, and I was staring face first into a half dozen guns.