January 21, 2019
A fly buzzed around the light that hanged from the ceiling in Maddox’s cramped cell. The villain made the most of what little space he had, doing pushups on the cold, cement floor. As his back raised up, the light glistened across the mad man’s sweat, revealing the intricately detailed tattoo of a hideous sea creature. The monster had a dragon-esque head, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and a long, winding, snake like body that disappeared into the sea – a patch of water that had been inked in blue on his lower back. The beast was blacker than the darkest night, though its features were illuminated by a gush of fire that roared out of its mouth. Above the creature’s head, there was an inscription, a biblical verse relevant to the dreaded devourer of those who became drunk on their own power. “Nothing on earth is like him – one made without fear. He looks on everything that is high. He is king over all the sons of pride.”
So large was the piece of body art that it no doubt required its owner to undergo a great deal of pain during its application. Many would have relented after the first few lines were drawn, but Maddox? He enjoyed pain. In fact, he was on his one thousandth pushup when the sound of a pair of knuckles rapping on the side of his cell’s plexiglass window broke his concentration. The prisoner rose to his feet, grabbed a towel and turned around to face the perpetually displeased looking face of Capt. Kent. As usual, he was flanked by his own personal army of soldiers with M-16s at the ready.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Maddox said as he wiped the sweat from his body. “Had I known I was to have company, I would have tidied up a little.”
“Not interested in your games, Maddox,” Capt. Kent said. “Up against the wall and assume the position.”
Maddox nodded and obeyed. He dropped the towel on his bed, then turned, faced the back wall of the cell, and pressed his body up against it.
“Lock your hands behind your head,” the captain ordered. The prisoner complied.
“On your knees, shit heel,” the captain said. Once again, the prisoner did as he was told, though this time he flexed his vocal chords with a song. “You put your right foot in, you put your right foot on…oh Captain, do come in and do the hokey pokey with me.”
“I have some items to give you,” the Captain said.
First, the captain held up a smartphone. “You have a call from your attorney. I don’t need to remind you that this phone does not link to the Internet, nor can it be used to make any other calls. Should you accidentally hang up the call, your time to talk to your legal counsel will be considered over, and the United States government will have no further duty to get your attorney back on the phone for you at this time. Are we clear?”
“Crystal, my good man,” Maddox said.
“Second,” Captain Kent said as he held up a bulging manilla envelope. “Your attorney sent some reading material you requested. A book and a magazine. Both were checked for contraband. Both were clear.”
“Thank goodness,” Maddox said. “You know, I do so hate to engage in stereotypes but I must admit I suffer from a chronic inability to trust the members of the bar.”
“I will now place these items in your pass-through,” Capt. Kent. “As I do so, you will remain completely still. If you make the slightest move, your cell will be filled with tear gas. Are we clear?”
“I could use a good cry,” Maddox said. “But not today.”
“You will wait until my men and I have cleared the area before you take your items,” Capt. Kent said. “If you move before you hear the door to this area shut, we will assume your intentions to be hostile and will put you down like the dog that you are.”
“Can’t be too careful nowadays,” Maddox said.
“The reading material you can keep,” Capt. Kent said. “The phone will be collected when your call is over.”
“Your service has been positively thorough, Captain,” Maddox said. “I have half a mind to post a positive review of this fine establishment on Lifebox. Is that still a thing?”
“Shut up,” Capt. Kent said as he opened a drawer in the middle of the door to Maddox’s cell. He popped both items into the drawer, closed it, then twirled his finger around in the air, a sign for his men to move out.
When the door to the area was shut, Maddox stood up, grabbed the phone and put it up to his ear. “Emmett! It’s been so long.”
Attorney Emmett Carlisle, a skilled Manhattan litigator in his late forties was on the other line.”
“Pierce,” Carlisle said. “I trust they’re treating you well?”
“As well as one might expect,” Maddox said. “How’s your lovely family?”
Carlisle hesitated to answer. “Oh…that’s…you know, we should get down to business.”
“Indeed,” Maddox said. “I have no doubt my jailor is pleasuring himself to this conversation as we speak. Do slow down, Captain Kent. You’ll go blind and grow hair on your knuckles.”
“The actions were successful,” Carlisle said.
“Good show, old boy,” Maddox said. “And the upcoming maneuver?”
Carlisle’s voice wavered. “That’s…that will take some time.”
“Pish posh,” Maddox said. “I’ve given you plenty of time already.”
“You have,” Carlisle said. “But sir, the thing you have to understand is…”
Maddox’s nostrils flared. Just as the villain was about to blow a gasket, his neighbor across the hall called out from his cell. “Who are you talking to? Is it the voices?”
The villain ignored the question. “Emmett, need I remind you that…”
Another interruption. Oh, how Maddox despised that. “Do the voices command you too?”
“Shut up, Sergei,” Maddox said. “I’m on the phone.”
Carlisle spoke up. “Sir, I understand your disappointment, but the request you made is very involved, a lot of working parts. I want to make sure it’s done right and that my best people are on it.”
Maddox calmed down. “Yes. Right. Measure twice, cut once as the bourgeoisie say.”
Sergei pounded a fist on his clear plastic cell door. “Tell me what the voices are telling you!”
“Emmett, hold a moment,” Maddox said as he turned his attention to his neighbor. “The voices told me to tell you to pound your head against your door until you fall asleep.”
Sergei appeared bewildered.
“Well,” Maddox said. “Go on then. You don’t want to keep the voices waiting.”
Maddox turned his back on Sergei. As he did, he could hear a non-stop thumping sound from across the hall.
“Very well, Emmett,” Maddox said. “I suppose I’m in no position to argue.”
“We should be able to help you in March, sir,” Emmett said.
“Until March then,” Maddox said. “Ahh, good help is so hard to find. Once you’ve fulfilled your obligations to me, Emmett, you should really kill yourself to make up for your failure. Really, it’s the only way you’d ever be able to recover any semblance of the formerly high regard I held you in.”
Emmett stammered. “Sir, I…I…it’s just that…I can’t just…”
“That will be all,” Maddox said. The madman placed the phone in the drawer, then picked up the manilla envelope. As he laid down in his short, uncomfortable bed, the thump sounds grew louder.
Maddox pulled out a book titled, Jaws of Death: The Inside Story of the News Duo That Tracked the Toilet Gator. The book featured a photo of recently appointed Network News One anchorwoman Natalie Brock standing next to her cameraman, Walter Dawes. Natalie wore a woman’s business suit while Walter wore a photographer’s vest and ball cap. In the background, the big yellow eyes of the late toilet gator that had rocked South Florida in late 2017 loomed large.
“Do the voices still want me to do this?” Sergei asked.
“Indeed,” Maddox said as he opened the book to a section filled with pictures of the toilet gator investigation. Maddox flipped through photos of Cole Walker, the hero who saved the day, his ex-wife and lead investigator, FBI agent Sharon Walker, Sharon’s partner, the late Gordon Bishop, Cole’s partner, Officer Rusty Yates, Moses Malone and Felix Howard, the gun owner’s rights advocates who backed the team up, dispatcher Maude Fleming and Officer Burt Dunbar, not to mention Professor Elliot Lambert, the marijuana addicted scholar who introduced the world to the field of toilet animal studies.
Thump, thump, thump. “Can I stop now?”
“No,” Maddox said as he unfolded a centerfold. In doing so, the villain found a foot long print of a screenshot taken from the video footage of Mayor Beaumont Dufresne being eaten alive by the toilet gator.
“Oh, Mr. Toilet Gator,” Maddox said. “I love your work.”
The thumps continued as Maddox opened-up a copy of Gossip Digest. The villain flipped through a few pages until he found an article circled in red pen. It was titled, “Call Them Benwright!”
Underneath the headline was a recent photo of Enwright and Brock, he in a tuxedo, she in a flowing, formal gown, taken at a charity function.
Maddox read the article. “Recently resurfaced ex-Fed turned NN1 counter-terrorism analyst Edward Enright was seen with America’s favorite anchorwoman Natalie Brock on his arm at the Twenty-First Annual ‘Save the Platypi’ Fundraiser Gala at Sid’s Bistro in New York City. At first, a pair of co-workers attending a swanky soiree seemed harmless enough, but witnesses who dropped a dime to this publication indicated that the pair was seen after hours, fogging up the windows of a limousine and canoodling up a storm.”
The villain grinned. “Oh Ed, you dog, you.”
The thumps stopped. An alarm blared. Within seconds, Captain Maddox and company entered the hallway to check on Sergei, who was lying prostrate on the floor of his cell.
“Get him to sick bay, STAT!” the captain said to his men, just before he looked at Maddox. “What did you do?”
Maddox laid his magazine down on his chest. “Who…me?”