Authors: Roger Hayden
Table of Contents
Arthur Jenkins sat in his cell at the Rockland County Correctional Institute, eager to start the day. His parole hearing was in one hour, and if things went as planned, it would soon be the last time he woke up staring at the cracked-cement walls surrounding him. Six years of the same routine had long worn on him. Six years of being told when to get up, when to eat, what to do, and when to do it was a never-ending drudgery of unimaginable strain.
He was surprised by how quickly the years had passed and even more surprised to see how much he had adjusted to it. Years prior to his incarceration, the very idea of him ever going to prison was absurd. As a small-time land developer with large ambitions, he had his sights set on running for mayor in the upper-class village-town of Nyack, New York—where he resided with his wife, Teresa.
He sought office as an independent outsider, but had been easily defeated by incumbent mayor, Jeanine Layton, three consecutive times. Stunned but undeterred by his losses, he remained more determined than ever to win the next election through any means necessary.
The door to his cell creaked open. A mustached and burly corrections officer, Sergeant Rutzler, stood with one gloved hand resting over his belt, near his pistol, and the other holding the door.
“Rise and shine, Jenkins,” he said. “Your hearing begins in an hour.”
Fully dressed in a gray suit and tie, Arthur turned his head slightly to the side, barely taking notice of the officer. “I’m well aware of that, thank you.”
Rutzler placed his hand over his gun. “You know the drill. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
Arthur did as he was told, and faced the small window that overlooked the prison courtyard. Beyond the courtyard was a tall fence with rolls of concertina wire running along the top. Far beyond the fence was the slightly visible outskirts of Nyack. Arthur would often stare out the window of his cell as the world passed by year after year, imagining all the people going about their daily lives, free to do as they wished. He envied them to the point of sickness.
An associate’s voice rang through his head.
“You do the crime, you do the time.”
But Arthur had done his time as far as he was concerned.
“Let’s move,” Rutzler said, jerking him out of the cell. He led Arthur down a darkened hallway past several cells on both sides. As he glanced through the long vertical window slits on each door, Arthur could see his fellow prison mates, up and moving about.
“We’re going to swing by the cafeteria, but make it fast,” Rutzler said, guiding Arthur along with hand against his back.
“Not a problem,” Arthur said. He walked with a confident, easy stride. “I wouldn’t dream of keeping the parole committee waiting.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t,” Rutzler said.
“You know,” Arthur began, “I think I’m going to miss you most of all, Sergeant Rutzler.”
Rutzler’s laughter echoed down the hall. “You seem mighty sure of yourself.”
He was. Arthur had pulled a little strings with the parole board. His wife had been working diligently behind the scenes to secure his release. He was already running through his plans on the outside: the new life ahead of him and all the plans to make up for lost time.
“This way,” Rutzler said and yanked him down another hall to the right.
They approached two double doors leading into the cafeteria. Arthur could smell grits and gravy before they entered. Once inside, Rutzler stopped and looked around. The cafeteria was largely empty. He then told Arthur to have a seat near the front.
“You’re going to make me eat handcuffed?” Arthur asked.
“Do what I ask,” Rutzler said.
Arthur found a table and sat as Rutzler went to grab him a plate. Rockland County was a minimum security prison with its fair share of dangerous prisoners. Arthur, however, had no intention of staying much longer. His crime wasn’t murder, assault, or robbery. He was doing time for something else altogether.
Arthur had been sentenced to fifteen years on racketeering and conspiracy charges involving a pharmaceutical drug trafficking scheme meant to fund his latest campaign for mayor. Once the news go out of his arrest, Arthur went down in flames, and he was soon dismissed as an embarrassment in local politics.
He recalled every bit of his shameful past as Ruztler set a tray in front of him with a plate of steaming morning slop.
“Now eat fast,” Rutzler said and walked behind him to unlock the handcuffs.
After six years of relatively good behavior, Arthur couldn’t recall a time where Sergeant Rutzler treated him like a decent human being. He said nothing and quickly shoveled the overcooked grits into his mouth. A fork on his tray glistened in the hanging lights from above. He glanced out the corner of his eye. Rutzler stood nearby, looking away. Arthur placed an arm over the tray and slide the fork into his sleeve.
The parole hearing started on time in a small, sterile room with yellow walls. Two men and one woman sat at a long table in front of a barred window. Arthur was led in and seated on a chair in front of them. His lawyer, Frank Kershner, an eloquent, older man with a thin white beard and bald head, sat near Arthur. Rutzler shut the door and stood to the side, behind Arthur.
The bushy-haired professor-looking man seated in the middle, opened a file and then looked up to address the room. He had an ID badge hanging on a lanyard around his neck similar to his other counterparts. His finger pressed the record button of a portable digital recorder.
“Good morning. My name is Dr. Hughes, and we’re here to conduct the parole hearing for Mr. Arthur William Jenkins, inmate at the Rockland County Correction Institute since August twenty-third, two thousand and ten.”
Dr. Hughes signaled to the woman on his right. “With me is Parole commissioner, Susan Davis …”
The black-haired woman acknowledged him with a nod.
He then turned to his left. “And Mr. Edmund Lee, chairman of the board of parole hearings.”
As Mr. Lee nodded, Dr. Hughes looked around the room, focusing in on Arthur. “So, Mr. Jenkins. Are you ready to get started?”
“Ready as rain,” Arthur responded with enthusiasm.
Dr. Hughes cleared his throat as Ms. Davis and Mr. Lee flipped through their own files. “This won’t take long …” he said with near certainty.
Sitting perfectly straight with both cuffed hands flat over his legs, Arthur flashed a quite smile. “I sure hope not.” He glanced at his lawyer with reassurance. Kershner offered a subtle thumbs-up in return.
Dr. Hughes continued. “Yes, we’re here to determine if time served is satisfactory in the eyes of the state to offer you the benefit of parole.”
As the committee continued, Arthur’s mind began to wander. He imagined that they had already granted him parole and that he was free. Teresa was waiting for him in the parking lot as her red hair shinned vibrantly under the sky of a beautiful fall day.
“We take into account not only time served, but the liquidation of the prisoner’s assets, real estate investments, and personal finances on account of his numerous violations of both state and local election laws,” Dr. Hughes said. He then stopped and scribbled something onto his notebook.
Arthur got a strange feeling when he saw him look at the other two. With a frown, Dr. Hughes then turned to face Arthur and his lawyer. Rutzler remained standing with a hand on his hip and the incessant sound of gum chewing.
“Given light of recent events, it is within the best interest of this committee to hereby deny Mr. Jenkins’s parole for an indefinite period of time until further investigation.”
The bluntness of his words stunned Arthur. Shock hit him like a cold bucket of water followed by an intense flush of anger.
His lawyer jumped up. “What are you talking about? Is this some kind of joke?”
Dr. Hughes shook his head while gripping some documents. “It’s come to our attention that Mr. Jenkins has apparently learned nothing from his incarceration, and it would be irresponsible for us to release him at this juncture.”
Kershner was beside himself. He opened his briefcase, pulled out a thick file, and waved it in the air as Arthur looked on. Sergeant Rutzler took a few steps forward, intrigued and amused.
“This is an outrage!” Kershner protested. “A mockery of justice. I was told that my client would be afforded a fair parole hearing. We have over fifty signed character witness statements from staff and officers alike.”
Ms. Davis leaned forward, interjecting. “That bares little use as of now. Your client has attempted to compromise the integrity of these proceedings, and I’m afraid we have no other choice but to deny parole at this time.”
“Absolute madness,” Kershner said. His face reddened with anger.
Arthur knew what they were talking about. His attempts to play the committee had apparently back fired, to which Hughes then confirmed.
“It recently came to my attention that Mrs. Teresa Jenkins approached someone on this very committee and offered a sizable compensation to assure that we granted her husband’s release.”
“A bribe,” Davis added.
Kershner set his briefcase down at the table and approached the table, irate.
“That’s far enough,” Rutzler said.
Kershner stopped and glared at the committee. “My client can’t be held responsible for the actions of his long-suffering wife. I’m sure she would have done anything to ensure his release. But that has nothing to do with the man sitting in front of you.”
Ms. Davis crossed her arms. “Once charged, she implicated your client as instructing her to solicit the bribe. The district attorney is pursuing obstruction of justice charges as we speak.”
The room went silent. Defeated, Kershner hung his head down and then looked at Arthur with contempt. “After all I did for you …” he said in disbelief. “You go and do something stupid like that. Years of work to secure parole down the drain.”
As Kershner continued his admonishment, Arthur looked beyond him and outside the barred windows. It was a beautiful day out, and what he saw next quickly propelled him to action. An explosive blast filled the sky like lightening—only more encompassing. It sent shock waves that popped Arthur’s eardrums, while startling everyone in the room.
Several long fluorescent bulbs exploded from above. Ms. Davis screamed. A distant crackling sounded from outside similar to the low rumbling of thunder followed by a low ringing. Startled, Kershner ended his rant. The thin gray hairs around his bald head were sticking out. Muffled sounds of confused clamor reverberated from outside the room.
Dr. Hughes went to press the stop button on his recording device, but then discovered that it was no longer working. “I don’t want anyone to be alarmed,” he said, noticing the troubled looks in the room. “Maybe we should pick this up later.”
Sounds of unrest grew louder from outside the room. Curious, Rutzler turned to walk toward the door and check things out. With the slight distraction, Arthur saw his opportunity.
He jumped out of his chair, knocking it to the ground, and charged the officer with his hands gripping the fork under his sleeve. As they collided, Rutzler didn’t know what hit him. Arthur jammed the fork into his neck with his entire body weight. Ms. Davis shrieked. The other committee members recoiled in horror. Kershner stood back, frozen and shocked.
Rutzler flew against the wall gargling blood as Arthur jammed the fork into his neck again and again. He smacked it in one more time and backed away, as Rutzler slid down onto the floor. With his hands still cuffed, Arthur then grabbed Rutzler’s pistol from its holster and pulled it out. He whipped around to face the committee. They threw their hands up, terrified and clutching cell phones.
“Drop them,” he said, rising from the floor. The phones clunked on the table in unison. Out of the corner of his eye, Arthur could see his lawyer backing against the wall with his arms up.
“The phones,” Ms. Davis sad. “They aren’t working.”
“That’s too bad,” Arthur said. He spun around to face Kershner. “Get over here and un-cuff me. Now!”
Rutzler rolled over, gasping for air and clutching his neck as blood flowed into a thick, red puddle on the cement floor.
“Jenkins, whatever you’re thinking about doing—” Kershner began.
“Shut up!” Arthur shouted. “You’re fired. Now get over here!”
Kershner tepidly approached and searched for the keys on the dying officer’s belt.
“What do you plan to do?” Dr. Hughes asked from the table. “Shoot us all?”
Arthur held the pistol steady on them. “I’m getting out. Whether you get shot or not depends entirely on you.”
Kershner found the keys and handed them to Arthur, providing another warning. “Please, Arthur. This isn’t the way…”
Without comment, Arthur took the keys, held the pistol against his lawyer’s forehead, and fired. The back of his head blasted out with more blood and brains than Arthur had expected. Mortified, the committee took cover under the table. Kershner’s body collapsed as Arthur unlocked his cuffs.
Arthur looked over to the trembling group and tossed his cuffs to the ground. More commotion sounded from outside. No one outside seemed to have taken notice of the gunfire just yet.