Prisoner Pickings – A Short Story

Jim sat on the Thailand beach letting the sun warm his bones. Getting into the country had been easy. The fake passport had worked, with not even a second look.

Someone was unloading beer barrels behind him. As metal banged against metal the noise took Jim back. Back to the horrendous first night, he had spent in prison.

Five years ago to the day, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he didn’t commit. He had been taken straight to Rochester, one of the countries oldest prisons. He was placed in a tiny cell for two on C wing. C wing handled all the long-term inmates. Jim was housed with all the murderers, rapists and career criminals.

The first week had been the worse. The more Jim tried to keep a low profile the more he stood out. It was almost as if the experienced prisoners were sniffing out fresh meat. The first month he went to the medical wing six times with various injuries.

Over the years he learnt to be smarter, to move away from trouble. To sense the landings where trouble was waiting for him. He chose his friends to minimise the beatings.

The person he enjoyed spending time with the most was Dr Matthews. His frequent visits to medical meant they spent many hours together chatting. The first couple of years it was everyday talk about football, films and books. As the years progressed Dr Matthews started asking about his case. When he said he was innocent the Doctor believed him. Everyone in prison was innocent it was a relief to be believed. The other inmates laughed at him when he proclaimed his innocence.

Almost 5 years into his sentence he got in the middle of a particularly nasty fight. He knew straight away when he felt pain in his side, that he had been stabbed.

Fifteen minutes later he was sat on Dr Matthews table being stitched back together. Placing iodine over the wound Dr Matthews stitched him up. As the Doctor put in the last stitch a nurse came in asking for urgent help to sedate another inmate. Left with his thoughts Jim saw the spare tweezers glinting on the side. Picking them up he placed them carefully, where no one would find them.

When Dr Matthews came back Jim held his breath to see if the missing tweezers were noticed. Ten minutes later he was back in his cell. Thirty minutes after that Jim got his second piece of good luck. His cellmate was too ill to be transferred back to the cell. Jim left it five hours before he removed the tweezers and started picking the lock. His father had taught him to pick locks when he was a boy, it surprised him how easy it came back to him.

Within five minutes Jim felt the familiar click and the door swung in. Crawling out Jim pulled the door too. He then crept down the corridor. He followed the route he had memorised, avoiding the creaking parts.

He managed to get through the next door without incident. The guard was on his rounds at the opposite side of the building as Jim had calculated. He was almost through the courtyard and at the goods gate when he saw the guard. As the guard emerged in front of him Jim hoped it was true about good luck coming in threes. He chanced his last piece of luck. Turning the tweezers round in his hand, he came up behind the guard. He pressed the tweezer handle into the guard’s neck.

Jim hissed, “open the fucking gate, don’t make a sound or I will split you from ear to ear.”

The guard didn’t get paid enough to be a hero he complied immediately and the two of them walked out the gate. Locking it behind them.

One mile away from the prison Jim committed his first real crime. Hitting the guard on the back of the head he left him unconscious but, safe.

The rest of the escape was easy. Jim stayed away from populated areas, living in barns and sheds. Two weeks after the escape a tramp jumped onto the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet. When the train stopped in Paris a smart clean-shaven businessman got off. Then straight onto a plane, landing several hours later in Bangkok. A short local flight brought Jim to this quiet Thailand beach.

He sat smiling at how free he felt. Caught up in the moment he never saw Dr Matthews walking up behind him. He jumped as he felt the pressure on his neck and then relaxed.

“ Told you it would work, didn’t I?” She giggled into his ear.

He turned around and for the first time in five years, Jim kissed Dr Matthews.

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