The Devil’s Chariot

This is my response to this week’s Flashback Track Friday prompt, where they asked us to:

Tell us about your favourite music video.

I just fancied writing some flash for this one, and I’ll post one of my favourite videos at the end.

Vito was relieved. Just this one fare before the night shift finished. Not a run-of-the-mill pickup, but these jobs happened from time to time. After a busy shift, Vito simply wanted his bed. Just this one last fare.

He’d been hired by a law firm, Imbroglion, Frode e Truffa. Vito had heard of them. From the TV News, mostly. Their name seemed to crop up with every high-profile hoodlum who was ever arrested. But to Vito, their money was as good as anybody else’s.

Shortly before six o’clock, he pulled his spotless black Mercedes into the prison’s car park. He was to take his ride, a man called Barucci, back into the city, and then, Vito’s long shift was done. At this time of the morning, he thought, he should be back in twenty minutes. In forty, hopefully, he’d finally be snoring. He glanced at his watch, before pulling a marker pen from the glovebox, taking a sniff, then writing the name on a piece of white Perspex. The car park opposite the drab, grey building was empty, and Vito probably did not need the sign, but just in case… He adjusted his sweat-stained Hawaiian shirt, as he settled in to wait, and from the corner of his eye saw a guard emerge from the Reception Block and set about raising a flag. At this time of the morning, the prison was quiet, except for dogs barking in the distance. Even before the day had begun, they sounded angry. Soon, the officer returned into the building, leaving the flag blowing gently in the summer breeze.

Inside the prison, two more guards walked along the otherwise-empty balcony. They passed cell after cell, until they reached their goal.

A tall, mean-looking guard hammered on the door, as if to rouse its occupants, an act which might have been convincing, were their quarry not already fully dressed. ready and waiting for them. He had been anticipating this day for the last seventeen years. The guard’s shorter, sweating accomplice fumbled with a long chain of silver keys, before making his selection and pushing it smoothly into the lock. Turning the key, he pushed the door open and, in the same movement, stepped backwards. The mean guard read from a clipboard.

“Prisoner KJ4503 Barucci, step out.”

An elderly, greying man emerged from the cell, a plastic carrier bag tucked under his arm. Despite his age, he carried no extra weight, and he stared at the mean guard with malevolent blue eyes.

Undaunted, the officer continued. “Follow me”, he instructed, leaving his partner to relock the cell. The men marched, side by side, toward the Admin block. At the end of the corridor, the shorter guard again selected a key from his chain, and swung open the heavy door. The three advanced along a second balcony, exactly the same as the first. Looking through the floor and ceiling grilles, they could see more identical balconies, above and below. At last, the men passed a manned station which marked the entrance to the block, and they were released into a courtyard.

Outside, even at that hour, it was clear that this would be another sticky day, as the three walked the length of a football pitch towards an identical, concrete building. They passed the kennels; the dogs were quieter now, enjoying their breakfast.

The mean guard referred to his clipboard once again, as the three were admitted into the Admin Block. Instructed to stand behind a line until called forward. The prisoner showed a bewildered expression, as he realised that the block was otherwise empty. An adjutant appeared at a counter, behind another grille.

“Next”, the man commanded. The prisoner glanced around, but just confirmed his solitude. He stepped forward.

“Name”, barked the man once more, and the prisoner, sensing his closeness, complied.

The adjutant, in turn, disappeared, returning minutes later with a shoebox containing items which had been confiscated on arrival. First issuing the prisoner with a khaki-green kitbag, the adjutant navigated an itemised list, returning the items to the prisoner, one by one. In one final act of bureaucracy, the prisoner was instructed to sign a receipt. Placing each item into the kitbag, in a final show of defiance, the prisoner jerked the drawstring to close the bag.

This final stage complete, the three men exited the block. But this time, they turned right, and walked the short distance to the prison’s main gate. One last time, the guard read from his clipboard, and another guard exited a gatehouse. He opened a regular-sized door, set into the larger gate, and beckoned the prisoner to step outside.

Hearing the door click shut behind him, Carlo Barucci set his kitbag down, stretched, then took an enormous breath as he closed his eyes and sniffed the air as he realised that his name had finally been returned. After forever, he exhaled, opened his eyes once again, and began scanning for a limo. Had his associates delivered?

Formative nostalgia again. I was in my first year at college when the movie Running Scared came out. Two Chicago cops, on vacation about as far away in the US as possible, down in Key West, where of course they fall in love with the different lifestyle. There’s a good montage in the movie, set to Sweet Freedom and it truly does look beautiful down there.

The Keys was one of those places I never quite got to. When I first met Mrs Bump, we talked about a holiday down there, and I had just the place in mind. Little Palm Island. But this place was so luxurious, and presumably pricey, it was honeymoon territory. Once in a lifetime stuff.

As it happened, when we did actually get married, we only had three weeks between the decision and the registry office. So a holiday we had already booked, in the Carcasonne area in the deep south of France, became our honeymoon. Everything to do with our wedding was low-key, which was what we both wanted. Only two witnesses knew about it beforehand. Her close friend, and mine.

To be honest, I think I’d have been bored on LittlePalm Island anyway.


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