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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chapter Seventeen

        David hated prisons; they smelled like bad sneakers on a humid day, which was certainly, the product of too many people crowded into a tight space with poor air circulation. A murmur started at one end of the prison and rose in volume as David moved through the central corridor. Many of the prison’s residents were incarcerated because of One Week Window and David was the face they could blame.

                  Taunts and curses rained down on David and the guard escorted him to the minimum-security section that Ted Richmond now called home and would continue calling home for at least the next twenty-five years. The two men passed through three security gates, the metallic clang when they slammed shut a serious reminder that the low security section was still a prison. David turned down the last hallway into the visiting room and came face-to-face with a man that he hadn’t seen for five years.

                  “David. David Armstrong. How are you?” Ted Richmond was handsome and distinguished in the exact way that David had hoped to age but had failed to: he had a sharp profile, a trim frame, piano-player hands and glittering green eyes that were strangely piercing in the fluorescent lighting. His hair was silver-white and had been combed back from his face in a way that could only be described as “dashing.” However, his appeal ended there. Years of neglecting his outdoor hours in favor of reading in the cafeteria had cultivated a strange mossy fungus on his chest that had swept to his throat like a bruise, and for some reason that was beyond the detective, he had refused treatment.

                  The last time that David had visited Ted had been a year ago on a masochistic whim, and where the fungus had been just a tiny fleck by his clavicle before, it was now a festering, stinking mass that looked like an alien parasite.

                  “Mind if I come in?”

                  “Not at all.” Ted smiled genuinely, “Ask the guard to bring you a chair, you look tired. Are you?”

                  “A little. I didn’t expect you to be so hospitable.”

                  “Why wouldn’t I? You made a mistake and I’ve moved past it. No sense holding grudges. As a matter of fact I’ve had a lot of time to think about my case. Frankly, based on the evidence, I can see how the jury found me guilty.”

                  “That’s awfully generous considering the evidence was overwhelming.”

                  “That’s life. At least I have the knowledge that I’m innocent.” He smiled, and the contortion of his muscles made the fungus stretch.

                  David snorted and looked at his hands so that he wouldn’t stare at Richmond’s neck, “Sure…”

                  “Come on, David. You and I both know I’m innocent.”

                  “You were found guilty of fabricating evidence, of lying. Richmond Industries manufactured the false proof that eventually lead to the death of three men.”

                  “Wow. This is going to take a while. Let’s go get a cup of coffee. It’s not bad if don’t mind powdered creamer.”


                  “Low security. Follow me.”

                  The coffee machine in question was an ancient whale of a thing: it had been in the prison since the Carter administration and hadn’t been cleaned once in that entire time. The two men poured themselves a viscous cup and settled into the plastic chairs in the visiting room. One Week Window was playing on the television. “Bobby. Can you do me a favor? This man doesn’t want to watch that crap.”

The other convict looked across the room and his mouth dropped open. “Jesus Christ. You’re David Armstrong.”

                  David nodded his head in disbelief. Even in a prison he found he couldn’t have a moment of peace. “Hi.”

Bobby was beside himself. “You’re on TV! Everyone in here loves your show. We all love the sex parts and there’s a few guys in here who joke about dying so they can get close to Lauren.” he beamed at them awkwardly until it became very obvious that neither man was interested in his opinion. He walked across the room and turned the television off and made himself scarce.

Ted looked David in the eye. “You’re not here to talk about me, are you? It’s the Darcy Tucker case, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t think you would watch the show.”

“I normally don’t but when a former employee is brutally murdered, the show catches my attention. What’s bothering you about that case?”

“Why Darcy?”

“Great question. Seems improbable doesn’t it? She’s as squeaky clean as it gets. Good family. Wholesome values.”

“There’s no evidence. I don’t have a lead. Except for the fact that she worked for you and a division of Atlas, and that’s thin. There’s nothing much, but the two cases must have a connection.”

“Of course there’s a connection.” Ted smiled at him predatorily and stirred his coffee, “You.”

“I’m serious. A beautiful young lady is dead and you’re trying to play games.”

“It’s not a game, David. The person or persons who killed that poor Darcy know an awful lot about you.”

David sat silently for a minute as he pondered the implication, “Do you know who those people are?”

“No, but they know your blind spots and they are exploiting them. It’s exactly what I said to you when the jury announced my verdict.”

“You yelled at me. Something about ‘opening my eyes’.”

A bell rang signaling that all inmates needed to return to their cell. Ted rose and shrugged. “I guess that’s it for today.”

David was about to turn towards the exit when he remembered another issue. “I had run-in with you daughter. She doesn’t like me.”

“Well, I can’t say I blame her. However, you should work on that. You might find her very helpful.” Ted winked at David and walked away to his cell.
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