Fortunes of Dr. Jacobs
His life for the next five thousand days would be hell. The guards on top of those towers
would make sure of that. Dr. Robert Jacobs looked out the bus window as they pulled through the
back gates of the prison. He’d have to make it through the next two weeks and adjust, which
was going to be the worst part.
God, I don’t belong here.
“Move it along prisoners, you’re
not sightseeing!” shouted a guard so big he made the rifle he held look like a toy.
Dr. Jacobs hated it when people shouted,
and now to have to listen to them and obey them was unfathomable. He took small steps to mimic the
other prisoners in leg irons strung together in front and behind him. Anyone looking at the string
of prisoners could see he was the odd man out, his small frame a caricature against the bigger,
rougher looking inmates. The new inmates filed off the bus and shuffled along a red line on the
ground towards a door at the back of a red brick building.
“Here, fishy fishy!” a big ugly inmate with no front
teeth said, trying to push his thick body and face through the bars. He and other prisoners stood
in the yard behind a fifteen foot high fence. Saliva flew out of his mouth when he yelled.
Indistinguishable cat-calls came from
others who had gathered inside the yard close to the bus to watch the new inmates get processed.
keep your eyes forward!” boomed the big guard.
“Get your stinking eyes straight ahead
scumbag,” screamed another guard an inch away from the doctor’s ear. “You’re
not on holiday!”
The Dr. flinched and moved forward, his eyes
went to the ground in front of him.
One prisoner close to the gate inside
the yard stood stoic, protected by a circle of his men. He stared at the new inmates stumbling over
each other to get through the door to processing. His eyes never blinked, and his black hair was
trim and neat, slicked back with jell.
The sounds of the yard faded behind Robert
when the inmates filed into a big empty room and the steel door slammed shut behind them with a
loud metallic sound. He watched from the corner of his eye as the door shut and he became aware
of the absence of sunlight.
“I told room service I wanted a steak
medium rare, a baked potato and a small dinner salad.” Dr. Jacobs said. He stood against the
back wall of the six by six cell with no window; the only ambient light coming from a slit at the
bottom of the steel door.
“I know this isn’t what you’re used to Doc, but I’ll bring you
a slice a cheese cake and a coffee for desert when you’re finished with this,” Jarvis
said, ”just give us a whistle.” The young
guard laughed and slid the tray into the small cell opening at the bottom of the door.
“You crack me up Doc.” Jarvis
said through the door. “I put a small piece of cheese on your plate for your friend
“Thanks Jarvis, you’re my favorite oppressor.” Doc’s voice echoed inside the chamber. “Did you bring me that medical
journal I wanted?”
“Doc, you know you can’t have
anything to read in solitary; stop hitting guards and you’ll be able to read your journals
again. After two and a half years of coming in and out of solitary you should know that.” Jarvis half shouted, and then added, “Yeah, I
found it for you Doc, when you get out tomorrow I’ll give it to you.”
Dr. Jacobs tried to visualize Jarvis
standing on the other side of the thick steel door.
“Thank you, Jarvis.”
“Bon a petit, Doc.”
his tray off the concrete floor and sat down against the wall opposite the door and set the tray
on his lap, he threw the piece of cheese in the corner. Here
you go buddy, I hate to eat alone. Now, to dig into this masterpiece of
culinary delight. I see we’ll be having breaded veal cutlet with a string bean salad; last
time I had that I was at the Tip Top Inn with Judy.
I wouldn’t give to hold her again. I hope what’s his name appreciates that face. A guy
could lose himself in that face. Such a beauty and a good woman, always faithful, well to me she
was, I’m sure of it, maybe not; but ignorance is bliss right?
really need to stop having conversations with myself, it’ll ruin my stay at The Inn.
Dr. Robert Jacobs laughed out loud and
the two guards down the hall looked at each other and went back to their card game.
hit Ol’ Harry pretty hard to get in here; I hope he forgives me this time. He did last time.
If he hadn’t of followed me down here to the hole the other guards would have beat me even
worse. God bless that guy.
Doc wadded up half a piece of bread, shoved it in his mouth and took a sip of water.
He was fixed on a puddle in the middle
of the cell when movement caught his attention in the darkness. A mouse scurrying down the length
of the cement wall, it held a piece of cheese in its mouth and was headed for the hole in the corner.
Doc put his hand over the hole to barricade its access and then used his other hand to trap it in
Not so fast,
my little friend.
Doc picked up the mouse by the tail and
placed him gently on his pant leg.
“How’s my only friend doing today?” He whispered through his whiskers.
“it took my eyes a couple of days to even see you when I checked in.”
How’s your day in this stank-hole? Getting enough to
eat I hope?
He stared into the mouse’s black eyes.
The wife and kids are good at
home? I use to have a girl too, she was gorgeous. What’s that you say? Good, good, little
guy, you know we’ve only got one more day on this vacation and then they’re going to
break us up. I don’t know if we’ll see each other again so forgive me if I get emotional
I should tell you about my story before they let
me out of here tomorrow; about how a young doctor who had the world by the tail found himself locked
up in a shithole of a place and as soon as that happened his pretty young girlfriend
married his best friend. Well, she didn’t right away, that is true; she only did it after
I asked her to stop wasting her time coming here for visits. Do you
want to hear about that, little guy?
not even the best part of it.” He whispered, staring
at the wall opposite his spot on the cold concrete.
“No, I don’t blame you; I wouldn’t want to
hear it either.”
Robert laughed out loud and it echoed down the hall; the two guards in the shack looked
up again from their card playing and then at each other.
“He’s turning crazy as a shithouse rat.”
The first guard said as smoke drifted up off the tip
of his cigarette.
“He’s been here for near three years now and in and out of solitary ever
since. Give him another week in that hole and he’ll be crazier than that.” Jarvis said, trying not to laugh and snuffing out his cigarette. He laid three
cards face down for his opponent and gave himself two.
“Wait till he’s out in general
population tomorrow; he’ll wish he was back in that stanking hole, I guarantee it.”
Both guards half-laughed, and Jarvis half-grimaced feeling sympathy for Doc.
“Jokes aside, I feel damn sorry for
the guy, Will, he was sharp as a tack when he got here, and then he had to go and
get himself thrown in the hole to protect himself as soon as he was processed.” Jarvis said.
lit a cigarette and picked up his hand. “Do you think he did it?”
“Did what? Killed the mayor? No, I don’t buy it,
Docs too genuine.” Jarvis said shuffling the deck. “There are a lot of guys in here
that could con you out of everything you own, Will, but that guy? There’s not a dishonest
bone in him. Besides that, he’s not the one that shot him, Doc was just trying to save him.
pretty sure the mayors’ friends needed a scapegoat, so they tied
him to the mob with bogus evidence. Poor bastard sure
doesn’t deserve the sentence he got”
The next morning Robert was lying on his rack after his release from the hole the evening
prior. The medical journal lay open face down across his chest. The thin mattress was
the softest thing he’d felt in three months, but he stared at the ceiling all night unable
to sleep. Bill Saunders, his cell-mate, didn’t look at him or speak and kept himself busy
in the cell shuffling his belongings around.
They went to mess and ate breakfast at seven, and then came back
to the cell for another thirty minutes before leaving for their assignments. Bill mustered up the
courage to say something.
“Don’t show ‘em any fear,
Robert, you know you’re going to take a licking but it’ll
go worse for ya if you show ‘em fear.”
“I’ll try not to Bill, thanks for your words,” Robert said
trying to sound brave; but the lump in his throat betrayed him.
“At the least, you’ll take a
beating, but try and put up a good fight and you’ll be…”
He wished he’d stop saying “beating”
Robert didn’t hear the rest of what
Bill was saying. His voice faded into the background of his own thoughts
as he turned out of the cell and walked down the cell block.
He moved slowly towards the laundry room, almost tripping on
nothing in particular, just a miss-step of his traitorous legs. The lights above him illuminated
his way with a cold, concrete feel. His bladder was full and he had to go bad but he decided to
wait until he got to his work station.
Tomorrow’s my birthday. They’re probably going to kill me; day
before my birthday. My month vacation in the hole is over and now I’m going to pay for it.
He reached the laundry room where the other inmates stopped their work; they turned and
looked at him, some eyes showed pity, others were just glad it wasn’t them. He noticed right
away there were no guards in the laundry room.
Robert’s legs began to
shake while he walked over to his laundry station where the big basket of dirty towels waited.
I hope it’s quick, I hope it doesn’t last too long and I get
knocked out first.
Robert labored to get into his routine and focused on washing dirty towels in the bin
in front of him.
know what I hate Doc?” a familiar voice said behind him.
Robert jumped, wheeling around, trying to keep his knees still.
He looked into the face of a man with power and complete control, handsome and very strong with
slicked back hair. His eyes stared at Robert, unblinking.
“No wh..” Before he
could answer a fist slammed against his face knocking Robert’s glasses across the laundry
room and sending him to the floor; he lost control of his bladder. His world became chaotic with
pain and flashes of light and then it came crashing back into him, he stayed on the floor and tried
to focus on the voice that spoke.
“I’ll tell you what, you defiant
bastard! I hate pompous educated snobs that think they’re better
than me!!” said Big John Llorens, looking at Robert with contempt and then disgust when he
saw the wet spot spreading across the front of Robert’s prison pants.
“I’m not…I don’t think I’m..”
“Shut up,” Two of Big John’s
gang members snatched Robert up off the floor.
“Wait, I don’t want to...”
Robert felt a blow to the stomach and one to the side of the
head causing his world to go dim, he hit the concrete floor again. Dizzy and weak, another kick
to his rib cage sent the air rushing out of him. The pain was far away now; at the far end of a
dark tunnel. The pain spoke to him from the small dim light at the end.
“All I wanted you to do, Doc, was make our lives a little easier
and smuggle in goodies from some or your colleagues outside the walls and you couldn’t do
it. Not only did you not try but you acted arrogant; like you’re better than me. Like you didn’t want to help out our little community.
Well that hurts my feelings, and it pisses me off! You could
have been ‘our’ Doc, you could have had the good life here, and time would have gotten
a lot easier on you. I could have consulted you on health issues: you could have prescribed me a
diet.” The two gang members laughed. “We
could have been buddies, Doc.”
I want to close my eyes now, I want out of
this game …
“No, no, no, no. You’re not going to pass out
on me yet, I want you to see this coming, Doc. Pick him up!” The other inmates in the laundry
room watched not saying a word, a few made sour faces when they realized Doc had
Please don’t, please, I’m not ready…
“Do him, and do him slow, I want his life to ebb out on the
concrete floor.” Big John Llorens of the Poletti family said to his two goons holding Robert
up. One of the men held Robert under his armpits while the other stood in front of him brandishing
a thin sharp piece of metal with a small wooden handle and sharpened to a razors edge. The handmade
shiv might have been a piece of bed stripping or once part of a woodshop tool.
The other goon stepped squarely in front of Robert and pushed
his head back exposing his neck and poised the cutting instrument next to the skin on his throat.
“Say goodbye Dr. Jacobs,” said the other.
“Wait!” both men looked at Big
John Llorens whose eyes darted around the room without focus. “Did you say ‘Dr. Jacobs’?”
“Yeah, boss,” said one of the big men holding Robert waiting for
the cathartic moment.
“What’s your first name Doc?”
Big John asked leaning over to look up into Roberts’ face.
“Robert” Doc barely managed to get out.
“Take him back to my cell and lay him
on my bunk.” John said looking at nothing in particular. The two
big men carrying Robert walked past the other inmates in the laundry room back to John’s cell.
No one said a word.
“Would you like another sip Doc?” asked Big John, holding the
cup of whiskey up to Robert’s lips. It smelled like the good stuff.
“Yes, I would.” Taking another small sip, the pain in Robert’s
head was starting to dull to the point of acceptance.
“Doc, I’m sorry. I’m really
sorry about busting you up. Anything you want, anything in this world
I can give you, you just ask, it’s yours! Understand?”
“Yes, thank you.” He took another
small sip from the cup.
I’d like to see my furry friend again.
Big John studied Robert’s features. He wet a clean white cloth
in the small sink in the cell and dabbed it on Robert’s cheek and then handed it to Robert
who was propped up on his bunk. Robert wiped his mouth and forehead.
“Doc, did you work at a clinic on North First Street about eight
“Yes, I did.”
“You saved my sister and nephew, Doc.” Big John searched Robert’s
face. “I didn’t know it until I heard your real name. In here, everyone’s got a
nickname and I just knew you as Doc; I didn’t know your full name. I had no idea you was the
same Doc that saved my Sis and little nephew.” Big John
wiped a tear away before it could betray him. “Holy Moly, this don’t get no stranger.
It’s a good thing my man heard your name from that guard, Jarvis.
Here my kid sister had went and got herself into trouble about
eight years ago. She was so embarrassed that she couldn’t face the family. She hid out by
the water front and when she had the baby she came to your clinic and it was a breech, do you remember?”
The whiskey was working its magic and Robert felt comfortable enough to open up a little.
“Yeah, there were a few girls that came in from time to time. If
I remember that time frame there was a baby boy I delivered that was a breech. The mother was young,
dark hair, slight build. She gave me a surname of Poletti. I can’t be sure that was her real
name, in such circumstances girls often give phony names. I remembered her because of the name she
her! I’m surprised she used the family name.” Big John’s eyes widened. “She
could have bled to death, you saved her, and my nephew! I looked up your name after she came home
and told us the story with my little nephew still wrapped in a blanket.” It was Big John’s turn to take a sip of whiskey.
“She said you were a good doctor and took good care of her. I found out you worked at the
clinic part time and had your own practice downtown. I always wanted to go and thank you for it,
but,” he looked down at the cement floor, “well, you know what happens, life gets in
Big John smiled while he panned his arm out
around the cell and said, “Incarceration is inconvenient.”
“Then I heard you worked on that filthy scumbag mayor that up and
died on you, and I felt bad for you Doc, I had no idea that bastard would wind up on your table,
and the next thing I know his cronies are connecting you to the family business and sending you
here, like you had something to do with it. This is beyond coincidence!” Johns smile was as
big as he was.
“Hahaha! You’re lucky I finally
heard your full name Doc! I don’t want to tell you what I was planning
but I swear with God as my witness that I’ll make it up to you! Anything you want, you just
ask Doc. Can I get you anything?”
“Tomorrow is my birthday,” Robert
said a little sheepish, “I could use more of this.” He held
up his cup. “And I was thinking…”
“Hahaha, you got it my friend! I can
call you my friend can’t I Doc?”
“Of course you can.”
“Good, you can call me John, just plain
‘ol’ John. I’ll get you a couple of bottles of this
tomorrow.” he said pouring more whiskey into Dr. Robert Jacobs’s cup and pouring himself
“I’m going to tell you a little secret also; it might give you some
resolution. We’ll call it an early birthday present.”
“I was the one that gave the order for the hit on that son-of-a-bitch
Mayor, right from here; then I read in the newspaper’s that it was you, Dr. Robert Jacobs,
that worked on him that night.” Big John looked down at the cement floor a little embarrassed.
“I wish it could have been different, Doc but my guys outside gave the job to a rookie and
he didn’t finish it like he should have. He thought he’d killed him and that’s
why he walked away, a bullet that close to the heart doesn’t usually leave a man alive, I’m
just sorry you got mixed up in it.”
Now it was Robert’s turn to be surprised.
love surprises, after all, tomorrow’s my birthday.
“I have another request John.”
“What is it Doc, just name it.”
“When I was in the hole, I made friends
with a furry little creature, I’d like to retrieve him so he can
be with me, out here in general population, I think he’d like it much better out here.”
Big John was silent and looked at the seriousness of Robert’s
face, and wondered if Doc was all there, and then he spoke.
I’ll get the guards to take us to the hole tomorrow and we’ll
find your four legged friend. Have a little more of this.” Big John poured Robert some more
whiskey, two fingers this time and he thought about something. “I’m going to do you
one better Doc, I’m going to have my lawyer get you out of here. I’ll give him a call
tomorrow. If anybody knows you didn’t have anything to do with the Mayor’s murder, it’s
me. He can’t do anything for me, the Feds made sure of that, but you, you don’t need
to be here any longer, Doc.”
Birthdays don’t get any better, Doc thought, and smiled
for the first time in three years.
That afternoon, all through
cellblock H could be heard a drunken rendition of Happy Birthday toYou when the prisoners had three hours of common time among themselves,
and again, no guards were there to break up the festivities.
McMannus is 50 years old and currently working as a Systems Engineer, living in the
Puget Sound area north of Seattle. However, he considers his real job a daydreamer like he’s
sure all writers do.
He spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and has held a lot of different
jobs, including shoveling horse manure, working in an Animal Clinic, driving a Taxi, digging
ditches with a hand shovel and finally, but not last, an engineer at a telecom
company near Seattle.
Those were and are how he makes his living, but his passion
is, and always will be, writing. Even though he’s only lately been published, he’s been
writing his entire life and just recently began to submit his work for publication.