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Out of the Cage book cover

Out of the Cage
Wes Boyd
©2010, ©2016

Chapter 1

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“LeDroit, get your shit and come with me.”

Frenchy looked up at the old deputy, whose fat belly strained against his brown uniform. He’d seen the old fart almost every day for the past seven months and had never even started to like the man. Not that he had to like him, all he had to do was tolerate him, like he’d tolerated everything else. “OK, just a minute,” he replied, feeling rather surly at being ordered around, even at this late date.

There wasn’t much to gather up; a toothbrush and toothpaste, some rather beat-up and old changes of underwear, a pencil, a crossword puzzle book that he’d given up messing with months ago, and not much else. He could have left it there without missing any of it, but he didn’t want to leave any trace of himself behind if he could help it. He lazily tossed it in a paper sack while the deputy stood by with his arms crossed, a stern expression on his face. “All right,” he said in a few seconds as he stood up. “That’s it.”

“Good enough,” the deputy said, taking the key ring from his belt and unlocking the cell door.

God, finally, Frenchy thought. This had been the longest seven months of his life. He’d be out of the Spearfish County Jail in another few minutes, and then he could get on with his life, and take care of things that needed to be done, especially some things that had needed to be done the last seven months.

Frenchy followed the old deputy along the hall, through a doorway he hadn’t passed since he’d arrived at the place, and down a flight of stairs into a rather barren office. The deputy took another paper sack and handed it to him. “Here are the civvies you were wearing when you came here,” he sneered. “Put them on, and leave the uniform in the laundry bin. You can use that room to change,” he pointed.

The room was absolutely barren, except for a hard wooden chair and a plastic laundry bin. Frenchy had seen the room before, when he’d been told to put on the burnt-orange jail uniform that he’d hated from the instant he saw it. He’d worn nothing else but the jail uniforms since the day he arrived, barely able to stand them. Though he’d had clean ones every few days, he’d had to wear the dirty ones for several days at a time and after a while they got to stinking real bad. He quickly stripped off the hated coveralls and tossed them in the laundry.

Standing there in his underwear, he ripped open the paper bag. There wasn’t much in it – a dirty, sweat-stained, and ragged T-shirt and an equally dirty and stinking pair of knee-high clamdiggers, all he’d been wearing when the cops picked him up out at the state road intersection seven months before. As glad as he was to see real clothes, these were rather repulsive. They’d already been pretty sweaty and dirty after the long night of walking out of the woods after Jack and his wussy buddies had caused Frenchy to wreck his car, and they hadn’t been washed since. With seven months to molder and stew, they stank to high heaven – but at least they weren’t jail clothes. That was all he needed; he could put up with the smell until he got home.

A couple minutes later Frenchy headed back out to the desk, where the old deputy was waiting with yet another paper bag. “This is what you had in your pockets when you were brought here,” the old man said. “I need you to check out the contents and sign that you’ve received them.”

Frenchy opened the bag, and there wasn’t much in this one either. His wallet, containing a few cards and stuff, and the six bucks he’d had on him; a handful of change, which might have been another couple bucks. Incredibly there were a couple of pebbles that might have wound up in his pocket when he’d crawled from the wreckage of his car; and his keys to the house and the car. The latter of which, of course, were about as useless as the pebbles. He stuffed all of it in the pockets of his clamdiggers.

“You gotta sign a little more paperwork,” the deputy grunted, shoving some forms across the desk, the places where he had to sign prominently marked in large felt pen X’s. “The first is the formal notification that you have to report to your probation officer in the courthouse next door not later than next Wednesday. You will have two hundred hours of community service work to complete in the next year, and you’ll coordinate that through him.”

That was going to be a pain in the ass, Frenchy thought. It looked to him like he was going to be spending two hundred hours in the next year picking up cans and trash along the roadside, which was a hell of a way for someone like him to spend his time. “All right,” he replied in a rather surly voice as he reached out, took the paper, and signed it.

“I need to remind you that you are specifically barred from being in contact with several people until your one year of probation and your community service are completed,” the deputy replied officiously. “These include Matthew Effingham and Lawrence Coopshaw. You are also barred from any contact with people that have personal protection orders against you, which list includes Mr. Alan Jahnke, Mr. Jack Erikson, Miss Vixen Hvalchek, and Miss Summer Trevetheck, or any members of their immediate families. Violation of this order will mean at least another thirty days upstairs. A word to the wise, LeDroit. You’ve already done a month for busting a PPO, and Judge Dieball isn’t going to let you off as easy if you do it a second time.”

That’s a crock of shit, Frenchy thought. Matt and Larry were buds, they’d stood beside him in the past any number of times. How can some dried-up old fart of a judge keep him from hanging with his friends? Maybe they’d have to keep it a little cool but the judge couldn’t stop him from being righteous with his friends. As for the others . . . well, there was a list of people that needed their asses really and truly kicked, and the four were at the head of it. A man has gotta do what a man has gotta do, he thought, fucking judges or no fucking judges. His eyes still burned when he remembered the Hvalchek bitch hosing him with that fucking pepper spray. That has fucking got to be taken care of even if nothing else gets done.

Another few minutes, another several pieces of paperwork signed and the old deputy said, “All right, LeDroit, you can go.” As much as he had come to detest the man, those were about the sweetest words Frenchy had ever heard.

He had been waiting for this day for seven months. There had been times that he’d fantasized about being greeted at the jail door by his friends and his parents, to be greeted like the conquering hero he’d been for surviving all the bullshit – but when he stepped outside, there was no one there.

He walked a step or two from the door before a hard fact of life struck him. It had been August when he’d been arrested, a hot August at that, and he’d been dressed for it. Now, it was the first part of March, and this was Spearfish Lake, which meant that it was colder than the north end of a southbound polar bear. A T-shirt and clamdiggers weren’t exactly the right clothes to be wearing in temperatures that weren’t far above zero, and with a cold wind blowing. On top of that, he’d spent every minute of the last seven months indoors, which meant that he was in no way acclimatized to the chill and snow and ice of a hard winter. The wind seemed to blow right through him.

Shit, he thought. Some fucking one should have brought him some warm clothes, or at least been there to give him a ride home – but the streets outside the jail were all but empty. God damn, at least Effingham or Coopshaw ought to have been there with a car – some fucking buddies they were!

He glanced up and down the street – it was almost empty; there were only a few cars in sight, nobody out and around in the chilly day. In only another few steps he realized that nobody was going to come for him; he’d have to suck it up and walk home. God damn, he needed to talk to someone about that! How could those people diss him like that after all he’d done for them, especially Matt and Larry!

Maybe he wouldn’t get quite as cold if he ran, he thought. At least he wouldn’t be out in the cold quite as long. He wasn’t much of a runner and had hated running when he’d been in football practice, the idiot coaches yelling at him every step of the way, but at least he knew he could run if he had to. However, he hadn’t gone more than a couple blocks before he realized that he was in no shape to run. He’d been sitting on his butt and lying on his bunk in his jail cell for seven months, and all the exercise he’d had was to get up occasionally to take a leak. It wasn’t much more than another block before he realized he had no hope of keeping up even that slow pace. Puffing like a steam engine – but considerably colder – he slowed down to a fast walk. Jesus, he thought. Doing something about the way he’d been treated this morning had to be added to the list of things that needed to be done.

It was a long list, one that he’d thought about over and over again for the last several months. While there were asses to be kicked, and they needed it badly, there were also a few other things to be done. The first of them was to eat some decent food. The story around the jail was that the cook was given only fifty-nine cents a day to feed the prisoners, and she got to keep any money she saved over that, which had something to do with the fact that she drove a Cadillac. There wasn’t much food, and what there had been tasted pretty bad, with the result that, in spite of no exercise, he was pretty sure he’d lost weight while he’d been there.

More than food, he needed a beer. In fact, he needed a lot of them, but right at the moment the cheapest possible can of beer available. Even Schadler’s seemed like the finest drink possible. He hadn’t had anything to drink since the few cans of Bud he and Matt and Larry had managed to snag from some drunk down in Albany River the day before he’d been arrested. He sure would like to have known what happened to the stash of Schadler’s that he’d bought for the football team’s pre-practice party. He’d thought it was safe, but somebody had ripped it off. Maybe just as well, he thought; if it had still been in the stash it would have been frozen solid by now. Maybe somebody got a chance to drink it, but still, it had been his fucking beer that had been stolen and someone needed to get his ass kicked for that if he could figure out who it had been. He was pretty sure Jack Erikson had been involved from the prominent Jeep tracks out at the stash. Even if it wasn’t him, Erikson needed his ass kicked on general principles for a lot of other things, including leading Frenchy up that damn sand hill and getting his car wrecked in the process.

But that didn’t have to be done today. Soon, but not today. More important was getting together with Mary Lou Kempa and getting his ashes hauled. It had been seven lonely months without anything in the jail. He’d thought about Mary Lou a lot over the months, remembering how well she could use her mouth on him, and how much he enjoyed bouncing the bedsprings with her. There hadn’t been enough of that, no way!

He remembered hearing stories once upon a time of how guys in jail wound up getting cornholed a lot. He’d figured that someone was bound to try it with him, but no one did. Maybe it was because of his reputation as a fighter, or maybe it was because most of the guys in his cell block had run to old drunks doing time for multiple DUI violations and crap like that. If it had happened around him he hadn’t been aware of it, which he thought was just as well. The word around the cell block was that stuff like that did happen in the state slammers with all the horny black dudes in there. He didn’t know just how true that was, and had no intention of finding out.

Shit, he wouldn’t have been in jail at all if much of anything back last August had gone halfway right, if a few people had been willing to stand up and do what they were supposed to have done. He’d expected that the high school principal, Bryson Payne, would smooth things over after the arrest, but when he’d called Payne from the jail he’d only been able to leave a message on the answering machine, and he’d never heard a word since – not one fucking word. Right at the critical moment a man who he’d depended on had turned his back on him without a word of explanation. Payne needed his pansy ass kicked for that, but since he was the high school principal that would have to wait for a while.

High on the list of things to do was to do something about getting some wheels, and the long, cold walk home just made that more important. He hadn’t had a good look at the Eagle in the dark after it had barrel-rolled down the sand hill, but he’d figured at the time that it was pretty well totaled. He’d thought about it a lot while he was staring at the ceiling of his cell, and occasionally wondered if it was all that bad. Yeah, it had rolled several times, but down a sand hill, so maybe it wasn’t too fucked up. Maybe it could be fixed up enough to at least get around. While it had been an old car, it had also been a cool car, real sporty, and cheap. What had really happened to it? He had no idea; he’d brought the subject up the one time his folks had visited him at the jail back at Christmas, but they’d brushed him off.

The visit hadn’t come off very well and he’d have been just about as happy if they’d just given it a pass. They’d been very snotty to him, which had been nothing new – just another bad memory of a bad place. Hell, if they’d even lifted a finger to help him out things could have gone a lot better. There were people in some other cells with stuff like small portable TVs to help pass the time, and Frenchy has spent entirely too much time watching a tiny screen through a couple sets of bars, usually some damn soap opera or game show or something like that. Although most of it made him want to barf, at least it was something to do. But no, his parents couldn’t even help him out with something like that.

Once he had a car back, maybe he could get some money. He’d had a pretty good little business, buying cheap beer from Lame Badger up on the reservation and reselling it to thirsty kids around town for a pretty good price. It hadn’t been big money but had kept some bucks rolling in so he hadn’t had to hold down a regular job. He was betting that some of the kids around town had to be pretty thirsty, so as soon as he could find some cash and some wheels, it was time to make a run to Three Pines and get some money rolling in again. But getting a car would probably involve finding some money, which would involve finding a car. He had no idea how he was going to crack that, but with any kind of luck at least his buds would be willing to help him get some business going again, and that could help him get his own car.

The Eagle was probably a dead issue, he reminded himself once again. In the dark of the night out on the sand hill, it had looked pretty bad. No idea of what had happened to it, but it was probably still sitting out there. It would be nice to get another cool car, but it was something he’d thought about quite a bit while he’d been in jail – a four-wheel-drive pickup would probably be a better bet. He could haul more beer in it, and the kids around this town seemed to think that pickups were pretty cool, anyway. Whatever happened, it was probably going to have to be a cheapie. God damn Erikson for leading him up that sand hill! He really needed his ass kicked for that, and then it needed to be kicked again.

As far as kicking ass went, Alan Jahnke was higher on the list than Erikson, if anything. If the little fucker had just kept his mouth shut instead of whining to his parents about getting his ass kicked, then everything would have been cool. But no, he’d gone whining to his parents, and his parents went to the cops, and most of the trouble had come from that. He well and truly needed his young ass kicked too. But then, Frenchy thought he needed to be kicking a lot of asses to make up for the way a lot of people had stabbed him in the back over that whole deal last summer and what had happened since.

Moving as quickly as he could Frenchy hustled on up the streets toward home, getting colder and colder every inch of the way. That wind would have been cold if he had been dressed for it, so he was thoroughly chilled by the time he made it to his house. The front walk was ass deep in snow and the driveway hadn’t been cleaned out all that well. It didn’t help any that there was an icy spot near the back door; he wasn’t watching where he was going very well – he was shivering too badly – and took a header off the back steps.

He wound up in a snow bank, mad as hell and even colder. He was hurting and shivering as he picked himself up and went up the back steps even more slowly and carefully. At least on the back porch he was out of the wind, but he was shaking so badly he could barely get his hand in his pocket for his keys. It took him a minute or more just to get the key in the slot, and then he was inside.

The house was dark and quiet; no one was at home. Probably his father was working at his job out at Clark Plywood and his mother at the Super Market, but that wasn’t such a fucking big deal that they couldn’t have taken off work for a little while to pick him up, was it? It sure was a lot of damn consideration he got around this place, he thought as he headed upstairs.

Mad as he was, and he was pretty mad, he realized that he had to do something about the bone-chilling cold that had penetrated his body. He went straight to the bathroom and turned on the shower. While he waited for it to warm up, he peeled off his clothes; as soon as there was the slightest hint of warmth, he got in under the spraying water and turned it up as hot as he could stand it. It felt good, better than having some pervert in the jail staring at his hairy ass while he showered.

As cold as he was, he was ready to stay there as long as he could stand it, but all too soon the water started to run a little cooler. The water heater wasn’t real big and rarely could last as long as he wanted, but at least when he shut the water off he felt a little warmer and wasn’t shaking as bad. He dried off and headed up the hall to his room.

His room was a mess. It was normally a mess, of course, but at least it was his mess. Sometime while he’d been gone, someone had pawed through all his stuff and not been the least bit careful about showing that they’d done it. That didn’t bode well for him having a beer any time soon, not that he really wanted one just then, as cold as he was. He usually had a few emergency beers stashed in his room, and his parents had probably run out one night and decided to steal his stash, and not even thank him for it by picking him up.

As he looked a little deeper, he realized that the dirty clothes he’d been wearing back in August the day before he’d been arrested were still lying on the floor, just as dirty as they had been and smelling even grosser. Well, it wasn’t like he was going to be putting them on just then; he dug deep into a dresser and pulled out some polypropylene long handles, which felt good to pull on – he felt warmer already. They were followed by blue jeans and a flannel shirt, which was better yet, even though he still felt cold.

He threw back the messed-up bed covers and realized that they were still the same summer-weight stuff from last summer – they also hadn’t been changed, or even washed since then, and they stank too. “Fuckin’ shit,” he swore, ripping the covers off the bed and wrapping himself in the blanket. “I sure as fuck get a lot of respect around this fucking place,” he snorted as he headed for the stairs.

He still felt cold, and knew that he needed to get some warmth inside him. As about normal, the cupboards were pretty close to bare; his mother had a tendency to only buy what was needed immediately, taking advantage of whatever happened to be on special at the Super Market, so there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to choose from. About the best he could find was a dented can of soup, obviously a cast-off from the store. Clam chowder at that; he could have cared less about it but there wasn’t much else to choose from. What made up his mind was the label on the can: 59ยข.

Well, that meant it had to be worth as much as a whole day’s worth of jail food.

“Well, fuck,” he said as he pulled out a pan and dumped the soup into it, added some water, and turned on the stove. At least he could warm his hands over the burner while he waited for the soup to heat up enough to eat. “Welcome home, Frenchy.”

Forward to Next Chapter >>
To be continued . . .

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