“Mr. Roberts, what do you have to say about the news?” the reporter asks in her fake cheerful voice, holding the mic up to the face of the man whom the camera is centered on- a disheveled face, yet one that is kind and soft behind the hard exterior it took on during its years in a cell.
“Well, all I’ll say is I’m happy to be gittin’ out. Sure, this place ain’t so bad, but it ain’t nothing like my ol’ home.” He flashes a winning smile at the camera. His teeth aren’t as good as they had been, but a smile from this man is sure a welcome thing to the viewers.
“Your departure of San Silyo is scheduled for Friday, correct? What are you planning to do until then? How about after?”
“I’ll bide my time an’ try not to make all those suspicions about me true,” he begins, laughing. “When I git out, well, who knows? A criminal like me might no’ be able to git a job in the so called ‘real world’ anymore.” He smiles some more. The reporter laughs for effect.
“What do you have to say, you know, about the last five years?”
“Weeeell,” he replies, lengthening the syllable for suspense. “I gotta say, it’s still a bumma’ that I got locked up in ‘ere. Even though ev’ryone knows I didn’t commit no crime, apparently there ain’t no evidence I didn’t do it, and so the law runs its course.”
The viewer stands up, switches the power off with the remote, sets it down gently, then heads out to work, thinking quietly, ‘poor guy’.
“Mr. Barley, how do you feel about the release of Don H. Roberts?” The reporter’s voice hasn’t changed in the last two days, still very cheerful, still very superficial in its cheerfulness. The man whose face the camera is locked on is handsome, yet a bit plain. Neatly combed hair, graying a bit. A trim mustache. Good teeth that he doesn’t hesitate to show.
“I’m happy for the fellow, Noris.” That’s the thing with Mr. Barley. He always gets personal with people, including news reporters. “Everyone knows he didn’t commit the crime, and this place is really designed for the criminal kind, not the hard working lot.”
“About the crime, it’s been five years. Would you mind refreshing the memories of our viewers?”
“Not at all.” He never minded extra air time. “Five years ago, the late Prime Minister of England was coming through here in DC and he was shot right on the street. A man named Don H. Roberts was walking by at the time, and had a loaded gun in him hand. He seemed the perfect suspect. There’s no evidence he didn’t shoot the Prime Minister, actually, but… his behavior, the responses of the populace, his acquaintances- all of them- everyone, they all say he didn’t do it. That he couldn’t have.”
“And what do you have to say on the matter?”
“I’ve observed him ever since he came here five years ago because the amount of support the public gave him. I know he was found with a gun in his hands, but he was found speaking gibberish and in shock. I’d sooner believe the true killer put the gun in his hands and ran than that he’d shot the Prime Minister himself, or that he’d been carrying a gun. He’s so gentle, and kind, and down-to-earth. To tell the truth I doubt he could kill a man, much less fire a gun. That’s why I’m releasing him already.”
The viewer nods in satisfaction, saying, “It’s like he says.”
Three men sat on one side of a long table, papers spread out before them. On the other side of the table, one man sat in a flimsy folded chair, hands on knees, a bored look in his eyes. This man, Don H. Roberts, was being released from San Silyo High Security. An armed security guard stood right behind his chair, as is the norm, though he, like the guards at the door, aren’t too tense. They have little fear of this inner city car mechanic.
The man on the left adjusts his spectacles and clears his throat. Then he begins reading Roberts’ criminal record.
The man on the right begins taking notes of what the session is like, scribbling furiously away on a cheap notepad with one of those scratchy Bic pens.
The man in the middle closes his eyes calmly and listens as the situation under which Roberts entered San Silyo is repeated. As the man on the left finishes and the recorder slows down, the man in the middle, also known as Tom Barley, head of San Silyo, opens his eyes and looks at Roberts curiously.
“You’re an interesting person,” he says. “And I’m terribly sorry you had to go through this the last five years.” Roberts nods respectfully. “I hope you can put this behind you and resume your life as if nothing had happened.” Roberts nods once more.
And then, out of the blue, he leans back and headbutts the guard behind him in the stomach. Instantly, he’s up, moving, holding the man down and sliding the guard’s .9 mm pistol out of its holster. Don silently swivels his position and points the gun straight at Tom Barley’s head. Not like a rookie shakingly holding a gun for the first time, but like a master, aiming dead on at his target with a familiar tool.
The guards at the door aren’t that slow to act- readying weapons, taking aim.
“Stop,” Barley says, indicating the guards at the door. “Don’t shoot him.” The recorder scribbles faster than Roberts moved to be able to claim a weapon. “His courses of action are his to take.”
Roberts makes no noise, moves his finger to the trigger, readying himself for the shot. If he hits true, Barley will die instantly.
And he throws the gun down on the ground, away from him. Gets off the guard. The man instantly restrains Roberts, as the other two retrieve the gun. Barley stands up, moves over to where Roberts lies pinned on the ground with his arms behind him. Tom Barley, head of San Silyo High Security, kneels down beside Don H. Roberts, Washington D.C. Inner City car mechanic, and says to him,
“I wanted to release you. You seemed like a good person. You know, you still do- but the prison would lose face if I let you go after this.”
“I unnahstan’,” said Roberts, not looking shaken in the least.
“So, Mr. Barley, what do you have to say about Mr. Roberts’ behavior at the release session two days ago?”
“You know, we managed. It was shocking, but our guards are chosen from the very best so there’s nothing to fear as long as criminals are held in our halls. I think the guards behaved very well for such a surprising event.”
“We’re not talking about the guards, Mr. Barley.”
“Oh… what? Oh- that’s right! Mr. Roberts. Interesting fellow, him.”
“The records say you were the calming force and he was the savage beast, Mr. Barley,” the reporter says, pride clear in her voice for using such an ‘advanced’ analogy. “Is it true that you told the guards not to take action and used pure strength of will to make him drop his weapon?”
“Hmm..? No. No. Definitely not. Mr. Roberts dropped his weapon himself. I had nothing to do with it. I still believe, to the bottom of my being, that he’s a good person.”
“That guy’s too humble.” The viewer sighs, contemplating the black screen of the TV.
“…in latest news… Mr. Tom Barley, director of San Silyo High Security, was murdered in his sleep last night by one of the prison’s own guards. Law enforcement has caught the evil doer and identified him as one of the men that witnessed prisoner Don H. Roberts’ release session…”
The viewer slams the remote down onto the coffee table. Fumes.
“What a load of bull.”