The Next Phase

of the Next Three Days

 

 

By Bailey

 

 

John Brennan sat on the little cot in his jail cell thinking back on all that happened since he took his little family away from Pittsburgh.  He had ‘seen’ all the flaws before the actual jail break he masterminded for his wife and knew that he ran the risk of losing Lara’s good opinion of him.  She had always needed him to be perfect.  But he’d never seen this coming.

 

The jailbreak wasn’t flawless but it was successful.  If the courts had just been more willing to see that she hadn’t murdered her former boss he wouldn’t have been forced into doing what he did.  After all, his son was completely alienated from his mother because he was so young when she went to prison.  John couldn’t handle how hurt his wife was each time Luke rejected her.  When the last appeal was denied and John went to tell her that she wouldn’t be released anytime before her parole hearing some twenty years away, Laura had come apart.  It made him determined to get her out.

 

He thought back to the day they met.  She arrived in his life as a new student in one of his classes.  He had just completed his doctorate and the last thing on his mind was falling in love with one of his students.  But Lara was different.  She was young, but not as young as the other kids he taught.  They still called him Mister Brennan instead of his honorary, ‘Doctor’ Brennan, and he hadn’t made a big deal of it.

 

Lara on the other hand had worked in Pittsburgh for several years after she graduated high school.  She wasn’t happy with her entry level clerk’s pay, so she signed up for classes at the local community college, hoping to get some kind of degree that would give her more pay.  She had been dazzled by his title.

 

The first time he saw her it was as if someone had opened the window and a spring breeze had blown in.  She was beautiful, intelligent and funny.  She also had a temper and could argue with the best of them when she felt strongly about the topic.  Her long blond hair and slender figure spoke to his masculinity like the call of the sirens in one of his literature books.  Although he didn’t agree with his colleagues regarding dating their students, he couldn’t help asking her out several months after she had completed his course.

 

She slept with him after their very first date and it seemed to him that they were made for each other.  They continued to date and when John finally proposed she had dissolved into tears.  She absolutely adored him.  She put him on a pedestal and held him there right up until the day he went to the hospital and forcibly took her from her police escort.

 

At first she resisted, then knowing that John had already crossed the point-of-no-return, she capitulated until they made their escape.  Once they were out of the city she tried to commit suicide on the way to the zoo to retrieve their son from a birthday party.  But John had desperately held on to her when she opened the car door and tried to let herself fall from the fast moving vehicle.  Her perfect husband wasn’t perfect anymore and she couldn’t do this. 

 

He had never been perfect but having a woman as beautiful as Lara practically worship him was a balm for the inadequacies he felt with his father.  She was his father’s counterbalance.

 

John was almost eight years her senior.  He was tall, around 6 feet, with a solid build.  His medium brown hair and greeny-blue eyes along with a boyish smile, made him handsome to most women. He hadn’t really been interested in marrying.  He had his work and never slept alone unless he wanted to.  But Lara had changed all that.  She had overtaken him with her love.  Later, when she announced that she was pregnant he couldn’t believe the former bachelor in him acquiesced fully and fatherhood had completed the transformation. 

 

He had never been close to his father, a stern former steelworker.  They just couldn’t seem to connect and he was determined that his son would have a better relationship with his father than he had.   Although he couldn’t understand how she could live with a man who was so cold, his mother was pivotal in keeping the family together. 

 

His brother, Mick, was his best friend and confidante.  It hurt John immensely when he realized he would never have another conversation with him or his mother once he left the country.  And surprisingly, the day they left for South America, his father had given him a hug.  Not just a quick embrace, a full bodied, meant from the heart, hug.  That got to him more than leaving his mother and brother.  He finally knew that his father understood what he was doing, approved of it and said good-bye for a lifetime.  It was what John had always wanted from his father, his respect and love.  Perhaps it had always been there but couldn’t be expressed until then. 

 

Venezuela was beautiful and they were free to make a new life there with its limited extradition laws.  However, Lara couldn’t seem to make the transformation from America to their new home.  She was initially happy that their son had again accepted her and they were together.  However, she couldn’t forgive John for taking them to a foreign country and for ruining her perception of him as the perfect husband and father.  They made love only once and that wasn’t until a week after they left the U.S.  It hadn’t been like before.  She had indicated several times while she was in jail that she missed their shared bed.  But after the jailbreak Lara wasn’t responsive to him even though they hadn’t slept together for over three years.  He felt that she was punishing him.

 

It seemed that everything came down to before leaving and after leaving.  The timelines were distinct and unforgiving.  Perhaps he should have allowed her illusion to continue and waited until he was old and gray to hold her again once she was free.  But how could a man who truly loved his wife and believed in his soul that she was innocent, leave her to a life in prison, a place where her beauty and vitality had no outlet?  Where her life would be sapped away and once the sentence was met would spit her out as nothing more than a shell of a once loving wife and mother.

 

The answer is: he couldn’t.  So, he took the chance and failed.  He hadn’t realized how disappointed she had been until they had a minor argument and she verbalized her feelings.  Only two days later she took Luke and returned to the states.  Customs recognized her immediately and took her into custody.  The only request she made was for them to contact Luke’s grandparents so they could take him home.

 

John had been shocked to say the least.  He never thought she would go so far.  But then again, she wasn’t the only one who was disappointed.   After calling his parents and confirming what happened, he too returned to Pittsburgh.  His reason for living in Venezuela was gone; he needed to go home.

 

So, here he was waiting for his bond hearing.  Ironically, the homeless woman who had actually killed Laura’s boss became a Christian when she was given refuge in a home for the homeless.  She decided to relieve her soul by confessing what happened that night to the District Attorney.  She told him things that only the true killer would have known.  Even though Lara was vindicated the court was not willing to reverse the verdict and upheld the conviction.  Even though she’d escaped with John, her lawyer was convinced that she had no prior knowledge that John was going to do what he did and the two policemen who were her escort corroborated that she tried to talk him out of it.  Her lawyer was preparing a presentation for the governor requesting a pardon for both the murder conviction and the escape.

 

John, on the other hand, was facing a minimum of fifteen years in prison for a string of charges, not the least of which were kidnapping, felony flight to avoid arrest, reckless endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer, etc.  The list was too long to remember.  It all added up to the fact that he was going to be in prison for a long time.  It would have been worth it if Lara still loved him, however she didn’t.  It was a long fall from his pedestal and he shattered when he landed.

 

  

Chapter 2

 

John walked into the room that allowed prisoners to speak with visitors using a telephone connected to another telephone on the other side of the wall of thick plexiglass. His father sat waiting for him to have a seat and pick up the phone.

 

His dad looked older, much older than he had the last time he saw him.  He was a big man, barrel-chested and with a strong chiseled face and large hands.  John asked, “Why did you come, Dad?”

 

George Brennan quirked his lips in that little half smile John knew so well.  “I was about to ask you the same.  You should have stayed in Venezuela.”

 

“I know, Dad, it would have been the smart thing to do.  But as you know, I’m not as smart as you.”  The old feelings of inadequacy before his father were coming to the fore.

 

Mr. Brennan just shook his head as he looked down at the table where he rested his right arm.  “No, you’re right.  I would have worn a cape as I whisked my family out from under the clutches of the entire legal system.  I have to admit, though, you’d look better in tights than me.”

 

His dad in tights, now that was funny and John couldn’t help but smile at that visual.  He saw that his dad was smiling too.  Okay, so he was telling John that he probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off, that his eldest son was a pretty smart cookie.  Of course, if he really were, he wouldn’t be sitting in here while his parents took care of his son.

 

“How’s Luke?”

 

“He’s good.”

 

“And Lara?  Have you gone to see her?”

 

“No.  Mom did.  She didn’t want to talk to her.  All she said was that she needed us to take care of Luke and that she never wanted you to do what you did.  Then she walked away.”

 

George could see how hurt John was and it hurt him to see it.  He and his son were never close.  John was a thinker, smart and educated.  George barely made it out of high school.  He related to Mick better, always had.  They seemed to understand each other where John and he always seemed to be at odds.  That didn’t mean he loved him less; it was just harder to get through the layers of defensive barbwire they had both erected.

 

“John?”

 

“Yeah Dad?”

 

“Your mother told me to tell you something and I think she’s right.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

 He sighed deeply and looked John in the eyes. “I love you, son.  I always have and always will.  No matter how this turns out, we both love you and are very proud of you.”

 

John could see he meant it.  There were tears in both men’s eyes. “I love you too.”

 

George hung up the phone, smiled his half smile, nodded and walked out.

 

Three days later Meyer Fisk, John’s lawyer, argued that John Brennan was not a flight risk and should be given the opportunity to bond out.  The District Attorney argued that he most certainly was a flight risk given the fact that he had already left the country once to avoid prosecution for his part in his wife’s escape. 

 

The judge thought it over and set bond at $100,000.  Neither the judge nor the DA realized that John had nearly one million dollars hidden in his father’s back shed.  He stashed it there before coming in the house the morning that they left for South America.  If the judge had known, he wouldn’t have set bond.  Of course, killing the head dealer, setting the house on fire and stealing the illegal money would have only added to the long list of charges already against him.  Thank goodness it was his secret.

 

The night John stole the meth house money he knew there was a lot in the bag but he hadn’t realized how much.  He hadn’t realized it was the 'seed' money for the next incoming shipment.  It turned out to be in excess of two million dollars.  He’d robbed the dealer for cash that he couldn’t get anywhere else.  John knew they would need plenty of money to start a new life in Venezuela.   But he also knew he couldn’t hide that much cash going through customs; he simply didn’t have enough room without being caught. 

 

So he split it and left the balance in the shed.  He hoped that maybe he would be able to contact his dad or brother and they could use it for charity or to make their lives more comfortable.  At any rate, he had money available if he needed it for his defense.  He had already signed over the money that was held in trust on the closing of their house, to Lara’s attorney.  He would be well paid to represent her.

 

The money wasn’t important, though.  He had no intention of leaving the state much less the country. He had come back because he needed to be near his son and his family even if it meant only seeing them on visiting days.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

John was lying in his bed at his parents' house.  He had been out on bond for nearly three months awaiting trial.  Luke had ignored him as if he wasn’t there, much like he had done with Lara when they visited her in jail.  His whole world was undone.  Everything he loved was gone, his son’s love, his job, his wife. John seriously considered suicide, but hadn’t quite managed to convince himself.

 

If something didn’t change soon he’d go crazy.

 

“John, there’s a detective here to see you.”  His mother was standing at the bedroom door wringing her hands.  He could see his brother in her.  They both were slender with soft eyes and easy personalities.  She looked scared, though, and that bothered him.

 

Detective Quinn was standing at the fireplace mantle looking at the pictures when John walked into the living room.  They watched each other for a moment.  John recognized him as one of the detectives who arrested Lara so long ago. “Why are you here?”

 

Quinn smiled, “What do you know about a drug dealer named Alex Gudar?”

 

“Let me make this simple detective.  I don’t take any illegal drugs and I don’t deal them either, so why would I know Alex-whatever-his-name-is?”

 

“Okay,” Quinn murmured, “what about the fact that before you escaped to Venezuela your car had damage that matched damage done outside a meth house?”

 

“I think I need my lawyer present before answering any more questions.”

 

“Why?  If you weren’t involved in anything illegal you have nothing to hide.”

 

“Right, that’s what you told my wife and look what happened to her.”  

 

“For the record, Mr. Brennan, I didn’t think your wife was guilty.  Now it looks as though I was right.  However, you are.  You planned and executed a jail break and left the country.  You had social security cards, a credit card and passports forged and you didn’t pick them up in Walmart.  So, why did you return?  There’s limited extradition where you went and with the money you probably stole from the meth house you could have lived very well for quite a while.”

 

“Detective…I have nothing more to say.  Talk to my lawyer, Meyer…”

 

“I know his name,” Quinn interrupted.  “Off the record, I don’t give a damn that you offed that son of a bitch.  You rid the community of one more scumbag.  However, setting the house on fire wasn’t smart.  Half of the neighborhood could have been demolished if it had exploded.  Again, I could care less about most of the people who live there, but there are some decent people just trying to make it day to day and they have little kids.  All in all, it was a stupid thing to do.”

 

John didn’t comment.  He simply stood and waited for Quinn to get it off his chest.

 

Quinn turned and walked to the chair and sat down.  “I’m not here to make things worse. I have a proposition for you.”

 

It was plainly written on John’s face that he wasn’t buying it.  He fully expected that Quinn was looking for more information so the case against him would be rock solid.

 

“I mean what I said, John. I only want to offer a possible way out of this mess.  It is almost certain your wife will be pardoned once the governor sees the new information.  It would be a travesty he’d never live down if he didn’t.  You, on the other hand, will be an old man by the time you leave jail.  Is it fair that you risked everything for her and she wins by default while you pay for the rest of your life for trying to help her?”

 

“Shut up!  You don’t know anything about my wife.”

 

“I know one thing; she’ll walk free and take your son away from here.  She isn’t one of those people who would be gracious enough to stay and support you.  She isn’t you, John.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

Quinn’s face became hard. “Would she have gone so far to set you free if your roles were reversed?  I think not.  I believe in our justice system but… it is flawed.  I admire you for your devotion to her and your son.  But, John, you did things that can’t be undone and you will have to pay for some of them.  I only want to help reduce the amount of time you’ll have to spend in jail and maybe do some good at the same time.”

 

Quinn was right.  Lara wouldn’t have done what he did, but she would have considered their son more than he had.  His entire focus had been on Lara.  If he’d had to, he would have left Luke to be raised by his family.  That didn’t mean he didn’t love his son, he did, it was just that Luke had his family and they loved him and would raise him.  Lara, on the other hand, was isolated and John took his vows very seriously. They were supposed to cling to each other for a lifetime

 

Then it hit him.  Lara had pulled back from their relationship over the three years she spent in jail.  It had given her time to reconsider how she really felt about him.  It was the only explanation for her return to Pittsburgh.  She didn’t have to be with him if she was in jail.  Although Luke had warmed up to her in Venezuela, he still wasn’t as close as she wanted. In jail she had an excuse for not having a relationship with either of them.  There was no excuse in Venezuela so she manufactured one.  She could no longer blame her imprisonment for interfering so she blamed John for not being what she needed him to be…perfect.  She had sent him only one letter since returning to the states.  It had only two words, “I’m sorry.”  No explanation, no reason, nothing.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“So what do you want?”

 

“We have an epidemic of drug dealing here in Pittsburgh.  It’s running rampant and the more we do the less effective we are.”

 

“Yeah, so how does that affect me?”

 

“You went to the seedier parts of town to get the passports and phony ID’s.  You weren’t profiled as a man who would resort to violence in getting money or illegal documents.  You certainly weren’t someone we expected to engineer a prison escape and succeed at it.  In order for you to do what you did, you needed a lot of guts but also a lot of knowledge.  You had to have been methodical and precise.  The Allegheny County Jail is one of the most secure jails in the world, certainly in the U.S.  Yet you got around all the obstacles and found a way.  That takes determination, planning and balls.”

 

“Quinn, you’re stroking me.  What’s the bottom line?”

 

Quinn smiled, “I want you to go undercover and get us information.  We need to get to the top dog and find out how he’s getting his shipments and where they come from.”

 

John snorted, “And I’m the guy to get that information for you?  In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a community college professor not a cop.  I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to get that kind of info.  Not to mention that I’m sporting an ankle device that tells the jail that I’ve left the property where I’m confined.”

 

“You misunderstand me. I want you to go to jail and report from there.”

  

Chapter Four

 

Meyer was congratulating himself on his legal prowess, when he told John that he had negotiated with the D.A. for ten years, out in three with good behavior, if John pleaded no contest and took the deal.  He was totally unaware of the ‘deal’ John had made with the D.A.’s office through Quinn well before that. Meyer would have had a fit.  He understood how dangerous that sort of deal was.  John Brennan didn’t.

 

John was making his way to his assigned visitor's cube when he realized that instead of one of his family, Nicole sat waiting for him.  He picked up the phone and waited for her to do the same.

 

“Nicole.”  He couldn’t believe she was here.  They had spoken several times at the same playground where she took her daughter and where he often took Luke.  Kerry was Luke’s first crush and John could see why.  The little girl had long hair and an infectious smile.  She loved to tease Luke and he loved the attention.

 

“Hello, John.  I hope you don’t mind that I came.”

 

Mind?  How could he mind?  He had so few visitors.  But he had to admit to himself that this was hardly the place he would like to 'get to know' someone.  He thought she was nice and, of course, pretty.  But they hadn’t really gotten to know each other before the birthday party for her daughter.

 

“How are you and how’s Kerry?”

 

He saw the sadness on her face and she asked, “Luke didn’t tell you?”

 

“Tell me what?”

 

“Kerry was killed in a car accident along with her father just a few days after you left.”

 

“I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  She was such a sweet little girl.  Luke was very taken with her.  Luke and I …well, we…we aren’t as close as we were before.  I guess I pretty much ruined everything.”

 

“And Lara?”  She had heard that John and Lara were divorcing.

 

John smiled but there was no mirth in it.  “She sent me a two word letter and divorce papers.”

 

“I’ll be honest. I had heard that since the governor pardoned her she left town with Luke.  I can’t imagine why she would do that.  My ex-husband wouldn’t have walked across the street for me much less break me out of jail.  I’d say she is a pretty stupid woman.”  She saw a flicker of irritation on John’s face and tried to retract the comment.  “I‘m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

 

He interrupted her, “Don’t apologize, Nicole.  I guess I’m the only one who knew what Lara was like before all of this happened.  She isn’t as strong as some people expect her to be.”

 

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence before Nicole tried again.  “I know this is probably not the time to approach the subject, but I need to know now.”

 

John scowled a bit. “Know what?”

 

“Well…I…I think you know that I was attracted to you.  But you were too loyal to your wife to allow anything to develop.  Now that you aren’t bound to her, I was wondering…could we get to know each other better?”

 

“Nicole, I’m in here for at least three years.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You’re young and pretty.  You shouldn’t waste your time on a criminal.  You should go out and find a nice guy and have another child.”

 

“All right John, I’ll consider your advice.”  She simply stared at him with her large beautiful eyes.  “I’ll see you next week.”  She smiled and hung up the phone.

 

John just shook his head and smiled that beautiful ‘little boy’ smile.  Yes, she would definitely be back next week.

 

John Brennan wasn’t cut out to live in prison.  It was boring and time crept by.  He was made the librarian when the last one was paroled and he spent much of his time reading articles and researching names that he kept hearing.  He believed he knew who the top dog was that Quinn was interested in catching.  Because he was librarian he had access to the internet and used it every minute he could.  It was monitored by the guards for pornographic usage and they checked for possible queries into such things as manufacturing bombs, etc.  but normal information was not of concern.  There was no e-mail available so none of the inmates could communicate with anyone outside the prison.

 

There were a few inmates who were going to school via mail and they would come to use one of the library’s three computers to find information they needed for school.  Being the consummate educator, John offered to help them with whatever they needed.  He felt that if they were interested enough to get an education while in prison, maybe they would be smart enough to use it to get a decent job and change their lives.

 

As the weeks dragged on he was approached by several inmates.  They never tried to rape or bother him in any way.  They simply had short conversations with him and that made him jumpy.  Everyone, everyone was either a rapist or a victim.  Yet he was never touched. 

 

One morning while he was working in the library a contingent of men walked in and waited like guards near the door while another man strolled in as if he were God himself.   The man was tall, with dark hair and brown eyes.  He would have been considered handsome except for the perpetual frown he sported.  He walked up to the counter where John was arranging several books for return to the book shelves and asked in a Russian accent, “Are you John Brennan?”

 

John nodded, “Yes, what can I do for you?”

 

A smiled crept onto the lips of the Russian.  “You are the one who broke your wife out of this jail?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You will find a way to get me out of this place, yes?”

 

John couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  “You mean mastermind a jail break for you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why would I do that?”

 

The man leaned very close to John and said, “Because if you don’t, I will have your family killed and if you do, you continue to go unmolested as you have in the past.  When I heard of your arrival I put out word for you to not be touched.  This I have done for you.  Now you will do for me.”

 

John thought for a moment.  He needed to be very careful.  He had no doubt that this man, Roskov, the man he was certain was the kingpin the Pittsburgh police was looking for, was more than capable of following through with his threat.  “Planning a jail break from outside is much easier than planning one from inside.  I didn’t actually break my wife out of here.  I took her from the hospital.  She only had a couple of guards.  It would be totally different from here.  I doubt seriously that I can find a way.”

 

Roskov smiled again, though it didn’t reach his cold eyes, “What do you say I give you some time to think about it?   Say one week?  I will come visit you next week and you will tell me it is possible.”

 

“But…”

 

The contingent turned and left as quickly as they had arrived.

 

John was stunned.  How could he handle this?  He had no doubt that Roskov would make a point of showing he meant business.  Many rumors floated throughout the prison, stories of vicious beatings and killings were linked with Roskov and his lackeys.  He never asked more than once for a favor and he always gave a lesson to anyone who resisted his requests.   He had an iron fist and even the rival gangs that also ruled in this closed society ultimately bowed to his wishes.  That’s not to say they didn’t want to get rid of Roskov, they just didn’t have the opportunity.  His network was wide and strong, made up of mostly Russian immigrants, but sprinkled with a variety of other ethnic backgrounds.  He was known to be vicious but also generous, especially with those he considered unquestionably loyal.

 

Roskov himself was a naturalized citizen and apparently didn’t hold with those who didn’t embrace their new country.  All of his immigrant underlings were encouraged to become citizens.  That way they couldn’t simply be deported back to their country of origin.

 

The rest of his day John considered how to meet this new demand.  He needed to formulate a possible way to get Roskov out and let Quinn know.

 

Just before he was sent to prison, Quinn had spent considerable time with John teaching him a code that he could use to let Quinn know what was of interest.  He didn’t trust the system not to have people on the payroll of the bad guys and so he came up with an address for a fictitious ‘cousin’ of John’s so he could send letters.  Since all letters in and out of the prison were read by a guard assigned to that task, the code had to be subtle enough to fool even the trained person who read the letters before they left the prison.

 

 

John used every moment he had trying to figure out how to do what Roskov wanted and still not allow the man to actually escape.  He was afraid, that if the plan went bad and Roskov was recaptured, he’d blame John and have his family killed.  If he didn’t plan the escape the results were the same.  There had to be an alternative. 

 

They couldn’t simply dig their way out of their rooms as criminals in the past had done.  The jail was built of resilient concrete and steel.  No tool short of a drill with a diamond bit would put a dent in the walls and there were multiple check points going in and out of each section of the massive building.  The only possibility was perhaps finding an ally who would help him get rid of Roskov before the jail break.  But even Quinn was leery of the prison guards.  The vast majority were good, honest, hard-working people.  However, as in any society, there were always those who would put money above honor and duty.

 

Roskov got privileges that other inmates did not.  That meant he was either paying one or more of the guards or he had threatened them like he did John.  Either way, if he could find out who was the weak link in the prison system, perhaps he could exploit it for his own needs.

 

On the other hand Roskov was so hated by the other Allegheny gangs maybe John could look to one of them to help him.  Dealing with criminals was a slippery slope, though.  The old saying, 'honor among thieves' simply wasn’t true.

 

When Roskov came to the library the next week he asked, “So, have you made a plan?”

 

“I have an idea, but to make this work and to plan for all contingencies, it will take time and you’ll have to be patient.”

 

Roskov smiled, “I am not known for my patience.”

 

John thought for a moment and allowed his mind to wander back to the meth house incident.  He’d done several things he would never have thought himself capable of, not the least of which was killing the dealer.  He callously set fire to the house and dumped a dead man on a bus stop bench.  John had become more than a college professor.  He was now capable of doing the most cold-hearted things imaginable and he did them for love. Now it was time to become that man again.

 

He leaned towards Roskov and his face became hard.  “It will take me as long as it takes.  If you hurt or kill my family you’ll get nothing.  If I can plan a jail break I can plan other things, so don’t get premature with me.  It’ll come when it comes.  Or, you can always find someone else to do it.”

 

“Are you threatening me?”  Roskov moved dangerously close.

 

“Threatening? No, informing.  I want a complete understanding between us.  It makes things better for both of us.  My family is the only thing I have left in this world.  My wife and son are gone, my profession is lost, I have no future.  So if you think once they are gone that I will care one rat’s ass about what happens to me, you’re wrong.  They are your currency.  Burn it and you’re done.”

 

“I could have them tortured, make them linger on and send you tapes of their agony.”

 

“Yes, but the first torture will be your last chance to get out of here.”

 

“You have not yet experienced gang rape.  Perhaps you should, then you would know how strong you are.”
 

“Are you offering to give me a lesson?  They work both ways you know.  Some know how to give a lesson as well as receive it.”

 

The Russian assessed the librarian for a moment.  He was right.  Ultimately the threats he’d made would come to nothing.  He had thought that Brennan, being a college professor, would not prove difficult.  However, he also realized that the police had underestimated him when his wife was arrested.  They hadn’t profiled him as a possible problem.  The man standing in front of him was unpredictable enough for caution, so Roskov allowed him some semblance of respect.

 

“If you do your job to my satisfaction there will be no more threats.”

 

“And the time I need?”

 

“Not a problem, but it must be before your parole hearing, otherwise you might leave and I will still be here,”  he laughed.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

No way.  No way was this going to work.  John tried and tried to come up with some way to get Roskov out of Allegheny County Jail, it just wasn’t possible unless he had people on the inside ready to help.  For that he would need to get Roskov to give him the names of any guards that were on the take and willing to help.  That wouldn’t be easy.  Bribing guards was one thing, but selling them out was another.  If things went wrong, Roskov would still need the help of anyone who could be bought.  If they knew he sold out other guards they would be less willing to accept a bribe from someone they knew would not keep the secret.

 

Then it came to him.  The best way to get Roskov out was to have the state do it for him.  He was currently in Allegheny because of drug charges, but he was never linked as the top brass of the drug ring in Pittsburgh.  Even though he had used guns against the police when he was arrested on a lighter charge than he was actually guilty of, his lawyer pled him down to seventeen years on good behavior and had him sent to Allegheny instead of SCI-Forest.  It was a maximum security prison.

 

If John could get Quinn to arrange a transfer for Roskov to SCI-Forest, then John would sell Roskov on an escape from the bus that would transfer him.  John would need to figure out how to put a tracking device on Roskov prior to the transfer so the state police would be able to monitor his movements and record his business once he escaped the bus. 

 

As a prisoner, John knew the state was obliged to take care of him and that included his physical health as well as dental health.  Any dental needs were seen to on a monthly basis unless there was an emergency.  John had asked for a dental appointment and received one a month ago.  As he sat in the dental chair while the dentist replaced a filling that had fallen out, he contemplated the possibility of a transponder or transmitter being small enough to be buried in the filling. 

 

Roskov had some problems with his teeth and John had seen an appointment listed on the dental roster for him for the next month.  If John could get Quinn to okay the dentist planting a transmitter in one of Roskov’s fillings, they could track him once the escape was made.  Once he was back at the library computer he would check to see if that sort of device was available and viable.  It was.

 

The coded letter to Quinn explained that the tiny transmitter could be placed inside the filling and could be activated by the dentist once he was finished.  The catch was that in order to ‘hear’ what Roskov says, the filling must be made of special porcelain and it wouldn’t hold as a filling for an extended time.  In other words, once it was imbedded no one would know for certain how long the transmitter would be valid.  This meant that Roskov would have to be released to SCI-Forest as soon as possible after the implant.

 

John received word back from Quinn, via a letter from his ‘cousin’, that it was a go and that there would be a new dentist sent in place of Dr. Johnson, who would be conveniently sick that day.   The new dentist had, in fact, been commissioned by the FBI on several occasions to perform other such dental procedures.

 

Now all John had to do was get Roskov to ‘lend’ him some of his outside supporters to help with the escape from the bus.

 

Roskov had just left the library and John sat and contemplated the plan for Roskov’s escape.  Roskov had complicated everything by insisting that John accompany him on the transfer.  After all, if John could manage to get him transferred, he should be able to get himself transferred as well.  In other words, Roskov didn’t fully trust John or his plan and wanted him there in case things went wrong and Roskov needed a hostage or paybacks.

 

John had tried to argue that he didn’t want to move so far away from his family and that SCI-Forrest was a maximum security facility and he wouldn’t be considered a maximum security risk.  Roskov, on the other hand, had been considered borderline between maximum security and minimum security and having him transferred wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.  It would look like a simple reconsideration.  He didn’t care; he wanted John with him and would brook no arguments.

 

John took a chapter out of The Fugitive to fashion the escape from the bus.  He couldn’t take a chance that the guards would be hurt or killed so their escape would have to be modified from that of the escapees in the movie.   Instead of a train, John suggested to Roskov that one of his outside lackeys use a school bus.  The plan was to have the bus create an accident and once the prison bus was stopped the men hiding on the school bus would disarm the guards and take Roskov.  John would be left with the guards on the prison bus once Roskov was away. 

 

 

It sounded good on paper, but in fact there were too many ‘ifs’.  What if the guards were killed by Roskov’s men?  What if Roskov was inadvertently shot or killed?  What if he didn’t hold up his part of the bargain and leave John alive on the prison bus?  What if the plan didn’t work at all?  If it didn’t they would be in SCI-Forest and Roskov would no doubt have a network of new prisoners at his command in no time and John would be dog meat.

 

Quinn suggested that he could supply the guards and Roskov would be told they would be men John dealt with before.  The story would be that they would eliminate the real guards before the bus arrived at the prison and they would assume their identity.  They would pick up Roskov and John at the prison and simply deliver them to whatever destination was decided.  That way at least John had someone for backup if things went wrong and was in immediate danger.  It was agreed, that was the way to go.

 

The morning of the transfer John packed his meager belongings and gave them to the guard for inspection and transfer to the bus when it came.  Several of the inmates that he helped in the library had expressed their thanks and wished him good luck at SCI-Forest.  He sorely wished he could simply stay here in the library for the balance of his prison time.  This whole escape thing was far more dangerous than John Brennan cared for.  He would also miss seeing his family and Nicole.  Although each of them told him they would come to see him, he was sure that once they made the over four hour round trip the first time, they wouldn’t be so eager the next time. 

 

They finally came to escort him to the transfer area.  Roskov was already there and being searched prior to boarding the bus.  One of the regular guards began the body search on John and he made a nasty remark, “So, 114326, you’re going where there’s no chance of getting out.  We knew you’d never figure out how to escape from here, but SCI is altogether different.  Too bad you didn’t try it here.  We could have saved the state a lot of money by doin’ you in.”

 

John was surprised at the comment.  He’d always been treated with a modicum of respect and he never gave any of the guards any trouble.  In fact he went out of his way to show respect.  “Sorry I disappointed you.”

 

“Well, there’ll be other opportunities later.”

 

Now what did that mean?  He didn’t have time to contemplate it while stepping onto the bus.  The chains on his ankles were a major pain.  They made it very difficult to climb the steps and he needed his full concentration to make it up the steps without tripping. 

 

Roskov was already on the bus and locked into his seat.  The guard placed John in a seat at the back and locked him in.  Moments later the bus pulled out of the prison basement on its way upstate.

 

The bus normally took the main highway to Marienville, however since Roskov was such a prominent and important dealer, it was decided that staying to the back roads would be smartest.  No one knew the transfer itinerary except for the prison officials but they weren’t taking any chances now that Roskov’s true identity was known.

 

An hour into the trip a school bus seemed to be stalled on the highway.  It sat cross-wise to the road and effectively stopped the prison bus from going around it.  The guard driving the prison bus said, “Well I guess this is it.”  He turned to the guard in the back, “Get Roskov loose and let him go.”

 

The guard did what the driver asked, but Roskov insisted that John come, too. 

 

“Look, Roskov, I did what you wanted.  These guys are going to take off and leave me here.  The police will eventually find the bus and return me to Pittsburgh.  I only have fifteen months left and I don’t want to spend another ten to twenty years behind bars because you want me to leave with you.”

 

Two men from the school bus boarded the prison bus and waited for Roskov to make his decision.  “I want you with me, Brennan.  Either you come or you die here…now.  You decide.”  To make his point he indicated that his men shoot the guards.

 

John stood there stunned.  “Why did you do that?” 

 

Roskov smiled, “Now you know that I am sincere.”

 

They left the prison bus and drove the school bus to a small shack nearby.  There was a van waiting and they quickly got in and drove away, leaving the bus under cover of some trees.

 

John was truly afraid now.  He’d been the one who masterminded the escape and now two good men were probably dead and it was his fault.  He couldn’t help but believe he would be the next one killed.  He thought about Nicole and how much he would have liked to see her again.  She truly wanted to wait until he was out of prison and then pursue a relationship.  He was amazed by that.

 

He wanted to see his son again.  Even though Lara was no longer living in Pittsburgh he was certain that she would have no objections to his visiting.  She knew he was no threat to her or Luke.  She had even sent him a letter apologizing for her cold treatment when she sent the divorce papers.  She had explained that she only wanted him not to try to talk her out of it.  He would have.  She was right about that.  But it was over and done now and no longer a consideration.  He wondered if Lara would mourn his passing if this didn’t work out well.

 

His mom, dad and brother would.  They were the foundation of his sanity.  They never once faltered in defending him.  That amazed him as well.  He knew his mom and brother would but this entire situation had changed the relationship he had with his dad.  Perhaps it was because John was no longer on the pedestal.  He was glad of that too.

 

Unknown to Roskov the transmitter in his tooth was functioning very well and not only were the police recording everything that he said and did now, they had been doing so for the last few days at the prison as well.   The transmitter had provided valuable information on how he was handling his operations from the prison and who he was using.  They weren’t expecting him to kill the guards, but it was a consideration so they were wearing Kevlar vests just in case.  Both men were lucky that Roskov hadn’t insisted on a head shot and were currently being treated for a variety of minor injuries resulting from the force of the bullets.

 

The problem now was John Brennan.  He was technically an escaped prisoner and fair game when it came to being considered dangerous to the public.  It would only take the wrong law enforcement officer to run across these escaped felons and John might never see the next day.  Quinn was especially concerned about that since it was he who talked Brennan into this in the first place.

 

Once they were sure Roskov had made the escape, Quinn notified the State Police.  He mentioned that undercover operatives were involved and to caution their patrolmen to only advise them if contact was made and not take action to apprehend.  That was a slippery slope.  Too many young men looking to make a name for themselves were out there and Quinn wasn’t sure how far Roskov’s web extended.  John had insinuated that law enforcement might play a part in his drug running operation.

 

In fact, John had received word from Charles Kemp, a drug pusher and gang kingpin in Allegheny, that several Pittsburgh cops and a short list of state police were helping cover Roskov’s operation.  He gave the list to John covertly the night before the transfer.  He explained that he hated Roskov and since Roskov was leaving Allegheny he felt no need to accommodate him any longer.  He explained that his brother was of one of the men John had helped in the library. 

 

Anthony Kemp had been caught up in the drug life with his brother and was eventually sent to the same jail.  He realized early on that he didn’t want that kind of life and he and his girlfriend had a baby girl. Anthony wanted a family and a decent life, so, he put himself on the path to an education and John Brennan had helped him. He helped Anthony find the occupation he thought he would like and assisted him in getting courses to take.  Then he tutored him.  Unfortunately, Roskov decided to teach Charles a lesson in respect and had Anthony beaten to death to make his point.  Charles was ripe for paybacks. 

 

John had written another letter to his ‘cousin’ the night before he left but wasn’t hopeful that the information would reach Quinn before Roskov had him killed. John was under no illusions; Roskov wouldn’t need him anymore once he was free.  He realized that the guard who threatened him before leaving was probably on Roskov’s payroll as well and the threat meant John was already dead.

 

The van drove through the Pennsylvania countryside to a small farm.  They disembarked in a garage next to the farm house and made their way to the kitchen entrance.

 

An old woman was standing at the stove when they entered.  She turned and smiled.   “Leonid!  Come give you mother hug.”

 

John watched as Roskov meekly went and hugged his mother.  His attitude was completely different than with his men or John.  Mama Roskov pulled back and shook a finger under his nose. “You are wery bat ‘scaping lik tis.  They vill keel you.  Then I no haf my boy.”  Her accent was much thicker than Roskov’s. 

 

“No Mama, it is all planned.  There are people coming and they will protect me.  I will go away for short while then come back.  While I’m gone you stay here and wait.”

 

John broke in, “Where is here?  I don’t think I’ve ever been in this part of the state before.  Are we still in Pennsylvania?”

 

Without warning Roskov turned and hit John with a roundhouse and knocked him out.  “No, Brennan, we are not in Pennsylvania.”  He motioned to the two men with them to pick John up, “Take him to the barn.  Put him in one of the stalls and make certain that he is tied tightly, then, Mustafa, you come back here.  Abram, you guard our guest.”

 

Quinn and his team were trying frantically to figure out exactly where Roskov was.  He knew Brennan’s time was likely running out and he had no doubt that the surly Russian would kill him. 

 

Although the transmitter was good for receiving vocal information, it wasn’t a GPS.  So, they began by figuring out where they could have driven in the time allotted that would be just outside of Pennsylvania.    The highway they would have taken matched what Roskov said about barns and probable farms.  They could be in Ohio or New York State .  Quinn ran the information through the computer and found that Roskov’s dead uncle owned a farm in New York, just across the border from Pennsylvania.

 

“That’s where they have to be.”  Quinn wanted to storm the place and get John back, but they had to work through the FBI now that borders had been crossed and interstate flight changed the game.  They also had to coordinate with the state police in New York.

 

Quinn’s new superior, Ken Harbaugh, wasn’t as eager to interfere at this point as was Quinn.  “First, we wait until the FBI gets here; then, we track this for a while longer and see what information we can get.  There’s a lot more we need to know before shutting this operation down.”

 

“That’s all fine and good, sir, but in the meantime Roskov could kill John Brennan.  He’s already suspicious of Brennan otherwise he wouldn’t have him bound and being watched.  We can’t wait.”

 

“Stand down, Quinn.  You’ve said your piece, now let me deal with this.  You’re off the case.”

 

“What?”

 

“You heard what I said.  You can leave now.”

 

The FBI agents arrived just as Harbaugh dismissed Quinn and Quinn was lost in the middle of the changeover.  Detective Collero heard the whole thing and moved to Quinn.  “I guess we both will be off the case shortly.  Maybe we should just leave and let the FBI handle it.”

 

Quinn grimaced, “Maybe, but I made a promise to Brennan.  I told him I would cover his back and this isn’t that.  I don’t know about you but I think I’ll take a drive.  I haven’t taken I19 in a while.”

 

Collero shook her head. “You know Harbaugh will have your job if you do.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“Detective Quinn, I have a letter here for Jason Keller.”  The policewoman who handled the front desk was standing there with the letter in her hand.  Brennan’s letters to his cousin went to a P.O. Box number and the box was checked every day by her.  She was the only one who knew about the P.O. Box outside of Quinn’s tight circle and the only one who knew that the letter was to be given to Quinn for delivery. 

 

“Thanks.”  He looked at the letter but didn’t open it.  “I’m going.  You coming?”

 

Collero shook her head in disbelief but followed him out to his car.  “I can’t believe I’m going along with you on this.”

 

They headed north out of Pittsburgh toward New York State.

 

Chapter Six

 

John woke up in a stall atop hay that hadn’t been cleaned out after being used.  Even though he wasn’t lying in feces it smelled terrible.  He was trussed up like a calf at a calf throwing contest only in reverse.  The rope around his wrists had already cut into the flesh and made them bleed.  They were tied behind him and a rope from his wrists to his leg ties kept him from being able to move.  Currently he was lying on his stomach and he wriggled until he managed to turn onto his back.  That was even more uncomfortable. 

 

He needed to get out of here.  He was convinced that Roskov would kill him once they left.   He looked around for anything that he could use to cut the ropes.  The sun was shining though the barn wall slats and something caught the light and reflected it back.  There in the corner of the stall was the tip end of an old scythe.   If he could shinny around and work the rope over it he might be able to cut it and free himself.

 

He managed to scoot over and began rubbing the rope on his wrists against the cutting edge of the scythe.  It was slow going since the tool hadn’t been sharpened probably in years.  Eventually, though, he felt the rope give.  Quickly he used the thing to cut his leg ropes and he was free.

 

Free to do what?  He knew that there was a guard outside of the stall.  He could hear him as he hummed to the music on his little Walkman.  He slowly pulled the old scythe out of the hay and called out, “Hey, if someone is out there, tell Roskov I want to talk to him.”

 

The guard answered, “You shut up.  Roskov will talk to you when he says.”

 

So John stayed on the floor near the stall door so he couldn’t be seen until the door was opened.  Then he began kicking the side of the stall.  Sure enough the guard opened the stall door and walked into the business end of the scythe.  John felt sick.  He’d just killed a man in a very barbaric way.  He put his emotions aside for the moment and dragged Abram into the stall then closed the door.

 

The barn had a small back door and John exited through it.  He moved into the orchard behind it and kept the barn between himself and the house as he ran.  He had Abram’s gun with him and would use it if necessary but for the moment he just wanted to get away. 

 

Once he found a relatively safe place to stop he sat down and thought about the situation.  He couldn’t leave Roskov alive.  He would no doubt kill all of John’s family as a lesson and he would make John’ life in prison a living hell.  No, he couldn’t run and leave Roskov alive.  So he began his journey back to the farm house using a more circumnavigated approach. 

 

Quinn and Collero were just crossing into New York as the FBI and Ken Harbaugh made the decision to send in the FBI SWAT team to the farm in southern New York.  It was over four hours after Quinn and Collero left.  The SWAT team would arrive via helicopter in the next half hour.  They didn’t know it but the SWAT team would have left two hours sooner if it weren’t for Ken Harbaugh deliberately stalling for time.

 

“Mustafa, go to the barn and get Abram.  I want you to kill Brennan and put him in the back of the van.  I know where to dump his body where it will not readily be found.  It is on the way to the city.  There will be a private plane waiting for us at LaGuardia that will take us to Colombia.  They will provide us with sanctuary for the next few months and Karl Valdez will run the operation while I’m gone.”

 

Quinn hadn’t spoken ten words since leaving Pittsburgh but he suddenly pulled the letter out of his pocket.  He handed it to Collero and asked, “Would you please read this to me?”

 

She took the letter and opened it.  Quickly she scanned it before reading it aloud.  “Oh shit!”

 

“What?”

 

“This is a list of law enforcement officers who are on Roskov’s payroll and guess who is at the top of the list?”

 

“Well?”

 

“Ken Harbaugh.”

 

“Shit!”

 

John steadily moved from one tree to another until he was within thirty feet of the front porch.  As he watched the house, he saw Mustafa leave the back door and walk across the barnyard to the barn.  Once he reached the barn the jig would be up.  He had to move quickly before Mustafa raised the alarm.  He ran to the front porch and as quietly as possible climbed the two steps to the front door. 

 

He could see the front room through the window in the door and on into the kitchen.  Roskov was still in the kitchen sitting at the table with his back to the front room. As quietly as possible John opened the door and moved into the room.  Roskov felt the slight wind that accompanied the opening of the door and turned to investigate. 

 

Mustafa was furious that Abram wasn’t where he should be.  After all ,he was the one who recommended Abram for the job.  It wouldn’t look good if the man were caught goofing off at such an important time.  He shouted, “Abram, where are you?”  When he got no response he moved to the stall and opened the door.  There on the hay in the near corner was Abram with a huge blood spot on the front of his shirt.  Mustafa quickly checked him and found he was dead.  Brennan was gone.  He needed to alert Roskov immediately.

 

John brought the gun to bear just as Roskov turned.  Mustafa came in the back door at the same moment and shouted, “Abram’s dead and Brennan is gone.”

 

Roskov stared at John. “I know, Mustafa.  He’s pointing a gun at me from the living room.”

 

Roskov dove for the floor as Mustafa moved to the opening between the front room and the kitchen.  John was temporarily thrown off and the bullet he fired went wide of its mark.

 

Mustafa ,on the other hand, aimed and fired just as Roskov’s mother came from the bedroom into the front room.  She hit John in the head from behind with an iron.  In fact she saved his life.  Mustafa would have killed him if he hadn’t fallen to the floor as he fired. 

 

Roskov pointed to John and said, “Kill him.  Two shots to the head and we’ll load him in the van.”

 

“No!  You not do dis!  They will execute you for dis!”   Mama Roskov was wringing her hands.

 

“Don’t worry, Mama.  We will be fine.”

 

She pointed to the door.  “No!  You no kill him here.  This my brother’s farm.  He no killer, I no killer.  You no kill him here.  You go!  No come back!  No come back!”

 

They grabbed John by his arms and dragged him to the van.  There they dropped him, intending to shoot him before loading him in.  A car turned into the driveway just as Mustafa was aiming at John’s head.  Detectives Quinn and Collero fired at Mustafa and Roskov as they exited their car.

 

The two fugitives ran for the orchard and fired at the two Pennsylvania police as they ran.  Roskov was hit and went down, then Mustafa took a round to the head.  As they came upon Roskov they could see his wound was mortal.  Quinn didn’t even try to help the dying man.  He saw no point in saving that kind of scum.

 

Twenty minutes later the SWAT helicopter landed and disgorged its shooters on the other side of the farm.  When they got to the orchard they found Mustafa and Roskov dead and Brennan still unconscious.  Mama Roskov told them that she hit John to keep Mustafa from killing him.  She didn’t know anything about who shot her son or Mustafa and they later found Abram in the barn. 

 

There was no one around when the SWAT team arrived except Mrs. Roskov so they weren’t sure who killed the fugitives.  It was speculated that one of the rival gangs had a hit out when word about the escape reached the prison and it was, in fact, a gang execution.

 

In truth Quinn and Collero weren’t interested in explaining why Pittsburgh police were in New York State especially since they had already been taken off the case.  An anonymous call to the police in the nearest town advised them that an ambulance was needed at the location indicated.  Once the ambulance was ordered they left and drove back to Pittsburgh.

 

John Brennan was flown to the hospital in Pittsburgh where he spent three days recovering from a concussion.  He was returned to Allegheny jail to complete his sentence afterward. 

 

Quinn passed along the list of names to the FBI and they later proved that each of the named men were, indeed, working for Roskov.  In addition, the information that came from the tooth transmitter proved to be invaluable and several arrests were made because of it.  The upper level of drug dealers were prosecuted and all of them were sentenced to several years each.

 

Because John Brennan was instrumental in getting rid of Roskov and since Charles Kemp had his revenge through John, he was protected by Kemp’s gang.  He never had to worry about being molested and Kemp felt he was in John’s debt, so when John asked for anything it was always given.  

 

The reason that he was being protected was a secret between Kemp and John.  If any of Roskov’s people found out the real reason, John would likely be killed.  As it was, the rumor in jail was that Brennan was a pawn for Roskov and when the hit came, instead of shooting him, Brennan was beaten and left to die.  Kemp, the new top gang boss, wanted Brennan to be part of his organization.  After all, he figured out a way to get Roskov out.

 

John again became the librarian upon his return to Allegheny and again assisted several men by tutoring them. 

 

When his parole hearing came up he found that Quinn had followed through and sent a letter to the parole board explaining his part in the arrest and conviction of several dealers and his help in finding evidence on the Roskov case.  He requested that the information they were provided be sealed for John’s protection and that John Brennan should be granted parole immediately.

 

After three years of prison John Brennan was again a free man.  Nicole came to pick him up and take him to his family’s home.  They had a wonderful dinner and Lara and Luke were there to enjoy it with him.  Lara was glad that Nicole was interested in John.  She hoped they would eventually marry.  She still cared about John but not as a wife, so her guilty conscience allowed her to be generous.

 

Because John had been so successful in tutoring the inmates, he was offered a job through the Pennsylvania Penal system to continue teaching at the Allegheny jail.  It provided him with a decent income and returned him to the job he loved so much.  He and Nicole were married six months later.

 

 

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