JACOB FLYNN (part i)

 

Jacob Flynn is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter. Like pretty much every other inmate incarcerated here, he will protest his innocence relentlessly to anyone who will listen. The fact of the matter is, however, that Flynn caused the death of a seventy-three year old gentleman through reckless driving. He will tell you that the old man was at fault as much as he was. He will give you any number of entirely plausible reasons why he feels his case was handled badly, and why the judge had something against him, and why his solicitor let him down, and how if it hadn’t been for the fact that he’d caught his lying bitch of a girlfriend in bed with his best friend then he wouldn’t have been driving at almost twice the legal speed limit down a narrow residential road at just after two-thirty on a quiet Thursday afternoon in late November last year.

     Whatever Flynn might tell you, the fact remains that he was travelling too fast when he lost control of his car around a tight bend. He mounted the pavement and mowed down Mr Eddie McDermott as he walked back to his house after a lunchtime drink with friends. The fact remains that his driving was the sole cause of Mr McDermott’s untimely death, and in the eyes of the law he is being punished accordingly.

     Flynn shares his small, rectangular cell with two other men, Suli Salman (minor drug trafficking offences and assault) and Roger Bewsey (corporate fraud). According to his own mental records, he has now been locked up for five months, three weeks and a day. It is just after eight o’clock in the morning and he has been awake for three hours.

#

     I hate this place more with every second I have to spend here. I don’t know how the rest of them can handle it. There’s some that’ve been in here longer than I’ve been alive, but I don’t even know how I’m going to last another week. Every morning I wake up and wish that I hadn’t got into the car that day. Every morning I wish I’d never found Elaine with that bastard Peters or that I’d never even met the bitch in the first place. We’d only been together for just over a year, and look how much it’s cost me. I’ll spend more time in here alone than we spent together. I know there’s no point thinking like this but I can’t help it. The hours are long and slow and there’s nothing else to do.

     It’s the stench that gets to me first. Even before I’ve opened my eyes I can smell the soulless, disinfected emptiness of this fucking hellhole. Then I hear it – the relentless noise from the scum in the cells around me. No matter what time it is, it’s never quiet in here. There’s no escape. It never bloody stops. I keep my eyes closed for as long as I can but eventually I have to sit up and look around this concrete and metal hell.

     I shouldn’t be here.

     Maybe if I’d gone a different way that day or if I hadn’t gone around to see her then I wouldn’t be here now. I’d be out there where I should be. Because of that fucking slag I’ve lost everything, and I bet she’s bloody loving it. She’s out there with him, sleeping in the bed that I paid for, wearing the clothes and the jewellery and the perfume that I bought for her. Bitch.

     Bewsey is snoring again. He amazes me. I don’t know how he does it. There’s a man you’d have put money on cracking up by now. He’s in his late fifties, he’s overweight, has a stammer, gets picked on constantly by the mentally-challenged thugs in here and, as far as I’m aware, he’d never been in any trouble before he got himself wrapped up in the mess that eventually wound him up in here. On the other hand, Salman, who sleeps in the bunk above mine, is a cocky little bastard. He’s only in here for another couple of weeks. He’s in and out of these places all the time and has been for years. He’ll be out and back in again for another stretch before either Bewsey or I are released.

     The mornings are hard here. Some days there’s work to do, but most of the time there’s nothing. Most days we spend virtually all of the time sitting in here, locked up. That’s when it really gets to me. I’ve got nothing in common with the rest of the foul shite in here. I’ve got nothing in common with Salman or Bewsey except the fact that we share this cell. I don’t have anything to talk to them about. I don’t even like them. They both irritate the hell out of me. Sometimes I wake up and I can’t imagine that I’ll last ‘till the end of the day. I feel like that now. Tonight seems an eternity away. Next week feels like it will never come. And I’ve got years of this to get through...

     Here we go, first fight of the day. I can hear trouble a few blocks down. Someone’s screaming. Sounds like they’re being strangled. This kind of thing used to shock me, even scare me, but you get used to it pretty quick and it doesn’t bother me now. You can’t go for anything longer than a couple of hours in here without someone trying to-

     Jesus Christ! Bewsey just scared the hell out of me. I thought he was still asleep. Shit, he just sat bolt upright looking like he’s seen a ghost or had his parole turned down again or something. Bloody hell, his face is ashen white. Something’s not right with him.

     “What’s up, Bewsey?”

     He doesn’t answer. He just sits there, looking at me with this dumb, vacant look on his face. Now he’s starting to rub at the side of his neck, like he’s hurt it or something.

     “You okay?” I ask again. Being in this place has made me suspicious of everyone, no matter how harmless they might make themselves out to be. I don’t trust him. He’s either trying to trick me into getting closer or he’s about to have a full blown panic attack. Either way I’m stopping over here on my bunk, right out of the way.

     “I can’t...” he starts to say as he rubs at the side of his neck again. He’s looking into space but then his eyes dart up to look above me. Salman is trying to climb down from his bunk. He’s half-tripping, half-falling down. Now he’s doubled-up with pain and he’s coughing and wheezing like he can’t catch his breath. He’s dragged himself over to the toilet. Christ, he’s puking up blood. What the hell is going on here? Now Bewsey’s up on his feet and he’s grabbing and scratching at his neck too.

     “What is it?” I ask but he can’t even hear me, never mind answer. He’s not faking. This is for real. The cell is suddenly filled with noise, both of them coughing their guts up and trying to scream for help.

     Bewsey can’t breathe. Bloody hell, the poor bastard can’t get any oxygen. He’s up on his feet and he’s trying to take in air but his throat is blocked. I have to do something. I jump up and push him back down onto his bed. He tries to get up again but then collapses onto the mattress. His body starts to shake and he tries to move but all his strength has gone. I can hear Salman moaning and coughing behind me and there are similar noises coming from other cells around this one. I glance back over my shoulder just in time to see Salman fall to the ground and smack his head against the wall, knocking himself out cold.

     Bewsey’s convulsing now and it’s taking all my strength to keep him down on the bed. His eyes are full of panic - as wide as fucking saucers and staring straight at me like he thinks that whatever’s happening to him is my fault. There’s blood on his lips. Shit, there’s a dribble of blood trickling down his cheek from the corner of his mouth. He’s stopped shaking now. Bad sign. Fuck, he’s grabbed hold of my arm and he’s squeezing it so bloody hard I think he’s going to break it. More blood now. He arches his back then crashes back down onto the bed unmoving.

     I just look at him for a second before touching his neck and checking for a pulse.

     Can’t feel anything.

     He’s dead. Jesus Christ, he’s dead.

     I stare at Bewsey’s body for so long that I almost forget about Salman lying on the floor of the cell behind me. I turn around and I can tell by the way he’s lying that he’s dead too. Like Bewsey there’s blood trickling from his mouth and there’s more pouring out from a deep gash on his head.

     And now I realise that I can’t hear anyone else.

     The whole bloody prison block has suddenly gone quiet. It’s silent. I’ve never known it like this before. I’m scared. Jesus Christ, I’m scared.

     “Help!” I scream, pushing my face hard against the bars and trying to see across the landing. No-one there. “There are men dead in here. Help! Please, someone, help!”

     Shit, I’m crying like a bloody baby now. I don’t know what to do. This cell is on the middle floor. I can see the bottom of the staircase which leads up to the top landing, one of the officers sprawled out over the bottom steps. I don’t know whether he fell or whether what killed Salman and Bewsey has got him too. Even from a distance I know he’s dead.

#

     For more than an hour Flynn stood in the corner of the cell in shock. He pushed himself back hard against the wall, trying to get as far as possible from the bodies of his cell mates. It was a while before the initial panic began to subside and his brain was able to function with enough clarity to start trying to make sense of the situation. What had happened to the two men who shared this cell? Why had the rest of the prison also fallen silent? Why did he seem to be the only one left alive?

     A few minutes later and Flynn’s logical thought progression helped him to arrive at the cruellest realisation of all. He was trapped. He dropped to the ground and began to sob uncontrollably. There would be no exercise or work sessions today. There would be no meals, showers or classes or counselling sessions. If he really was the only one left alive here, then this was it. There was no-one left alive to let him out of his cell. The door would stay locked forever.

     As the day wore on and no-one else came and nothing else happened, Flynn painfully began to accept that, without warning, the term of his comparatively short prison term had been dramatically extended to a life sentence. No parole, no early release... life. Paradoxically, he also knew that without food or water, this life sentence would only last for days, not years.

     All he could do was sit and wait.