Early Parole

Two prisoners were sitting in their cell playing a game of checkers on a homemade board. The tall, dirty blonde-haired, pock-mark faced man picked up a piece of dried corn then jumped it over a piece of dried carrot. He removed the dried carrot from the board. The skinny, red-haired, red mustached, freckle-cheeked prisoner picked up a carrot at the other side of the board then moved it one square ahead. The pockmark faced man picked up a piece of corn on the other end of the board then moved it one square ahead.
A bald, heavy set, African American prison guard escorted an old, Hispanic, male prisoner with a long gray ponytail wheeling a squeaky metal cart in front of cell 107. “Hey Bailey, letter for you, government envelope, stamped inter-department.” Gasped the old Spanish hippie’s tired raspy voice. “Looks like it’s from the parole board upstairs.” The skinny, red head jumped up out of his bunk. “I hear you’re supposed to be getting out in a month.” The old man tossed the letter through the bars. “Hope it’s not bad news, kid.” He pushed the cart down the isle towards the next cell.
Bailey picked the envelope up off of the floor. He tore the letter open then pulled the memo out. “Damn!” He muttered.
From a few cells down the hall, Jackson, the cellblock’s loud mouth, shouted. “Your release over turned, Bails?”
“No.” Bailey stared at the paper. “Moved up. Says I’m getting out in two weeks.”
Whew! HOO!” The other prisoners cheered. “Alright, Bailey!” Coffee cups clanged against the bars throughout the cellblock.
“Quiet!” The guard at the end of the hall yelled.
“Bailey’s gettin out! Bailey’s gettin’ out!” The men whispered from cell to cell. “Two weeks! Two weeks!” The word was passed joyously.
Bailey quietly went back to his bunk. He pushed the board game away dumping the corn and carrot pieces to the floor. “I don’t want to play no more, man.”
“Suit yourself.” The inmate with the pockmarked face stood up then crossed the cell. He fell onto his bunk then stared at the cement wall. “You know, Bails, for a man who just found out he’s getting out of this place a couple of weeks earlier than he thought he was, hell, you don’t seem all that ecstatic!”
“Yes, I know.” He thought to himself. “Only two weeks to go. I should be ecstatic, after serving five years of a twelve-year sentence for a crime I didn’t even commit. The sooner I’m out of this place, the better. But, only two weeks!” He shook his head, “How am I going to implement my plan now, with only two weeks left to go!?”
Milton Bailey Jr. was somber the whole next day, especially as he went about doing his prison job, sorting the mail in the mailroom. Prisoners had a lot of pen pals. Since, there wasn’t much else to do in the joint, a lot of them take to writing letters to anybody and everybody. Some even start correspondences with people they never even met in person before. And this was the start of the holiday season. At this time of year, the mail always quadruples in volume.
Today, Bailey had three very special letters of his own to mail. Only, Bailey’s letters weren’t being mailed out of the prison. His letters were being sent to three other prisoners, still serving their individual, unusually, long sentences.
Normally, letters being mailed from one cell to another cell, between prisoners incarcerated in the same facility, were handled differently from the US postal mail Bailey worked with. They went to a different mailroom than the one Bailey worked in because they never really left the building nor required a stamp. Similar to the way yesterday’s early parole announcement had gone straight from the parole board upstairs direct to Bailey’s cell via prisoner courier. But, Bailey didn’t want his three special letters to appear as if they were sent by a cellmate here at this prison, especially not sent by himself. Bailey wanted his letters to look as if they came from outside the prison. And, that they had been mailed by someone other than Bailey.
To achieve this illusion, Milton Bailey, prisoner 743816, would have to perform what his ex-cellmate Gordon, the Tinker, Burns used to call a low risk forgery.
Bailey’s ex-cell mate had served twelve years, of an eighteen-year sentence, for forging signatures on documents. Gordy, the Tinker, died just weeks before he was due to be released early on parole, for good behavior. A strange virus broke out in his cellblock causing the officials to quarantine the whole section of the prison. The disease claimed mostly the older, weaker inmates like the Tinker. Twenty-four inmates died. But, the quarantine stopped what otherwise surely would have resulted in a whole prison epidemic.
The Tink used to always proclaim how foolhardy young men were and he never shrunk from using himself as an example. As a young man, he had been an incredibly talented sketch artist who specialized, earning his wages, as a cartoonist for an advertisement agency. Some of his childhood buddies had later fallen in with some tough gangsters. Knowing of Gordy, the Tinker’s artistic ability, they recruited him to do some forged signatures for them. The Tink had a flair for making a signature undetectable even when scrutinized by a high powered magnifying glass. He accredited his talent to his incredibly high degree of patience coupled with discipline and the steadiness of his hands. A single signature might take him two hours to complete. But, when it was done, it was flawless and the gangsters would pay considerably for perfection. He became an expert whose talent was sought and vied for by the top echelon of the different crime families across this great continent.
“You see, that was my down fall,” Tinker used to proclaim. “We forged signatures for high stake claims. We forged names on wills changing the beneficiaries, forged names on huge money contracts, on affidavits, powers of attorney. Always, for big money. And that’s why my works of art were always being put under high scrutiny. You see, eventually, I was bound to get caught.”
“The trick of the crime, ya see, is to ply your talent at low risk schemes with little or no probabilities of detection that afford big opportunity for gain. Picking and perfecting the right scheme is far more important than perfecting a particular skill or crime craft.” Except for Bailey, who was fascinated by old Gordy, the Tinker’s, ramblings, whenever Tinker started talking like he was the Albert Einstein, Confucius, Guru of the crime world, all the other prisoners simply ignored him. Understandably so, since the joint they were incarcerated in was full of characters that had all thought they’d concocted the perfect crime.
The Tink was quick to point to the prisoners around him as examples to back up his statements. “Vinnie, you’re a jewel thief who’s incarcerated because you got caught stealing the jewelry of a very wealthy magistrate’s wife. Now, even if you had gotten away with the crime, you must have realized that the authorities would never have stopped looking for you. What I suggest next time is that you rob the rich magistrate’s girlfriend’s jewels instead of his wife’s. To conceal their scandalous affair, in all likelihood, the theft would probably not even be reported to the police. Ya dig?”
“Now, Max here…”
“Please, call me Noodles.”
“Okay, Noodles it is.” Old Tink would continue. “Now, Noodles here is a mugger and quite good at his trade.” Noodles, stands up and takes a bow smiling proudly. “Noodles has successfully pulled off hundreds, maybe even a thousand muggings and was only caught three times. That’s one hell of a good record. Still, each time he’s arrested, he gets sent here for longer and longer stretches of time. If he gets caught for a fourth time, the judge has already warned him that he’ll lock him up and throw away the key.”
“Now, if Noodles had only gone one step further in perfecting his craft, if Noodles had stuck to only mugging other crooks and criminals and relieving them of their illegal spoils, well then these crooks couldn’t rightly go running straight to the local constable to report it, now could they?”
“No, but if your suggesting that Noodles turn on us, his friends and fellow criminals, and that he stick to only mugging other thieves, well, that just won’t work.” Randy a big, burly, blond German argued. The underworld has its own way of dealing with double dealing scoundrels. Noodles wouldn’t last too long once the word got around.”
“Noodles would find himself being fitted with a pair of cement shoes.” Another con laughed.
“Listen folks, there are criminals and there are CRIMINALS!” Tinker enunciated the word as if he had a sophisticated French accent. “I would never suggest that Noodles ply his trade of mugging against the likes of any of us. That would be foolish and considerably more risky than what he’s been doing.” The prisoners that had been listening nodded in agreement. “But, if he was to mug a senator, mayor or congressman just after he received a cash payoff from a businessman for, say, voting for a specific bill of legislature he wouldn’t normally have voted for. Well, ya see, now who could that Congressman go running to complain to? Nobody.”
These were the types of conversations that the Tinker liked to expound upon and debate with anyone, any and all the time. And, since old Tink and Bailey were cellmates and best buddies, Bailey found himself constantly listening to theories, sometimes joining in with his own opinions, and even disagreeing with this old con who couldn’t give up the fantasy that someday he would concoct the perfect crime, the undetectable scheme, the risk-free robbery, the con man’s dream.
“There is no perfect crime,” Rocko exclaimed to the group of con’s one day. “Cause if there was, I would have thought of it by now.”
“On the contrary, the perfect crime is the crime society hasn’t created a law to pertain to yet,” Tinker interrupted.
“Explain, genius,” Rocko sounded annoyed.
“Well, while we’re sitting here in this cell, technology out there is always advancing. Just look at how fast the computer field progresses in one year. Equipment goes from new to obsolete in six months. I tell you, it’s impossible for the lawmakers to keep up with passing new laws quick enough to pertain to every new invention that’s invented. Think, if someone invented the time machine today, think of all the schemes and ploys that would be immediately available for the criminal who was capable of running the machine. The world would be susceptible to all kinds of cons. And, for a short period of time, the criminal would not be able to be prosecuted because there wouldn’t be any laws on the books yet regulating the use of the new invention.”
“Ahhh! Clear Tinker nonsense, as usual,” Rocko disagreed. “This is the real world, the now. There is no such thing as a time machine and I still say there is no such thing as the perfect crime.”
Tinker went back to mopping the floor. But Bailey stuck up for his cellmate as he usually did. “No, I think I know what Tinker means…” Even if he didn’t know what his friend meant, he would always still make an attempt to decipher.
After the Tinker died, Bailey realized how much he missed his friend and their fantasy, philosophy, corny, crime conversations. All their years of brainstorming and debating had set the wheels in Bailey’s head spinning. Like a computer that was programmed to find the solution to a complex mathematical problem, his mind wouldn’t quit working on creating different scenarios for his and Tinker’s illusive perfect crime. Only now he had no one to share his theories with.
The stuff his new cellmate, or the other prisoners wanted to talk about like girls, sports, checkers and card games, seemed so unchallenging that Bailey quickly found himself losing interest. In the yard, the other prisoners often saw him standing off by himself. He appeared to be talking to someone, but nobody else was there. This was the time of day Bailey talked to Tinker. This was when they discussed Bailey’s latest scheme, scrutinized the plan, honed the idea then debated.
“That Bailey’s as nuts as his ex-cellmate was.” Bailey heard Rocko exclaim under his breath, one day as Bailey walked past a group of cons crouched over, wagering on a race between two cockroaches.
“Did you hear that Tink? So they all think we’re crazy. Huh, well, we will just have to show them, won’t we. Yeah, that’s it.” A scheme began to pop into Bailey’s head. “We’ll show them who’s crazy.” And that’s when the scheme began.
Everyone in the prison knew the names of the guys who had made the big scores, got caught, but were still sitting on a hefty stash of loot, money or merchandise that they had hidden before they were caught. Yes, they would have to serve their time, but not for naught. You see, they had big bucks hidden, just waiting for them to spend when they got out. These rich cons were the ones Bailey targeted for his scheme.
One of these men was Rocko. Yes, the same Rocko that was always giving Tinker and Bailey a hard time. Rocko had single handedly held up a manager from a large department store while he was on the way to make the cash drop off at the night time drop box at the Duelly National Bank and Trust Company. Rocko got away with 60,000 dollars in cash and was able to hide all of it except for four hundred dollars, which he used to celebrate with that same night at a local Go-Go lounge. It was the spending of that few hundred dollars that led to his capture. It had something to do with tracing the serial numbers on the bills he spent. Sixty thousand hidden dollars made a nice nest egg, but it wasn’t a fortune. Bailey targeted Rocko’s loot mostly for spite, revenge and the sheer enjoyment of taking the nasty thug down a peg. The other cons he targeted were his real marks. They had the really big stashes hidden away somewhere, big bucks and big treasures.
Carl “Boom Boom” MacDonald, blew up the safe in the office of Ling, Foo and Wang, Formal Wear. LFW, a manufacturer of men’s tuxedos, employed over 400 workers. Most of their sewers were illegal Chinese immigrants with no bank accounts or credentials to cash a check so the company had to make arrangements to pay these workers in cash each payday, Friday. On Thursdays, the money was brought in by armored trucks. So, the payroll department girls could have time to divide it up into little packets with each employee’s name on it. The individual pay envelopes were then stored in the vault over night. The night Boom Boom MacDonald blew up the safe and part of himself, the stolen payroll was reported, the next day in the news, to have been over $400,000 dollars. Boom Boom was reported to have made off with at least another $100,000 in additional corporate funds that the executives of LFW Formal Wear kept around as their emergency money. Bringing Boom Boom’s total net take to half a million dollars.
But, Boom Boom used a little too much dynamite in his calculations of the blast that night. Despite the fact that he was hiding over 100 feet away from the vault, behind three sets of closed doors when he pressed the detonator button, Boom Boom was still seriously injured by flying scrap and flaming debris.
Bruised, cut and burned, most men would have just stayed put and called for an ambulance. But, Boom Boom was not about to give up on the biggest score of his lifetime. Ignoring the pain, he dragged himself limping, choking and coughing through the rubble, flame and smoke. Boom Boom emptied the safe, filling two canvas army-issued duffel bags with the loot.
Losing blood and quickly weakening, Boom Boom ripped his shirt up then used the strips of fabric to tie a tourniquet around his injured leg. Somehow, he forced the pain out of his mind. He proceeded to lug himself and his plunder down two flights of stairs then across an open lot to his concealed get-away car. Boom Boom drove away with the money. One hour later, near death, he dragged himself into the emergency room at Lincoln County General Hospital then promptly lost consciousness. The doctors and nurses reported that he passed out with a wide smile on his face. That smile never left his face, throughout two subsequent medical operations.
Four days later, Boom Boom woke up surrounded by police
detectives. “Where’d you stash the money, Son?” Was the first question they asked him.
“What money?” Boom Boom claimed he didn’t remember anything about any robbery, any explosion or any money. He claimed he had complete amnesia. He and his lawyer stuck to his story of not being able to remember anything, right up to and through his trial. Boom Boom was convicted and is presently serving a sentence of 17 years in the same prison as Bailey. All he ever talks about is the half a million dollars he’s going to have a ball spending as soon as the parole boards lets him out. For his major acquisition, Bailey set his sights on getting a hold of Carl, Boom Boom, MacDonald’s half a million-dollar take.
Bailey also targeted a con they called Hook, because of his ugly crooked nose. The Hook had stolen an extremely valuable Arabian gold challis from a museum exhibit. The challis had diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires embedded on its sides. Dismantled and sold separately the gems were estimated to net the crooked Hook one million dollars on the black market.
Bailey’s scam was simple in theory but actually very complicated when trying to pull it off. Since, Bailey worked in the prison mailroom, sorting and packaging both incoming and outgoing mail, the first step was to intercept all the mail pertaining to his three targets. For months, Bailey opened then read their every correspondence incoming and outgoing in order to familiarize himself with his subjects. By reading their mail, Bailey figured out what and who was each of his target’s weaknesses.
Rocko wrote letters to and received letters from only one person, his daughter. Bailey learned she lived on the West Coast and had two small children to look after so there wasn’t much chance of her suddenly appearing for a surprise visit to the jail and exposing Bailey’s scheme. Rocko’s daughter was Rocko’s vulnerability.
The only person who wrote to Carl, Boom Boom, MacDonald, was his mother. She lived in a trailer in the Ozarks. It was too far for her to visit him and she was too old and poor to afford the travel fare anyway. So, she wrote every week. Surprisingly, Boom Boom actually wrote her back every week, too. By using Boom Boom’s mother against him, Bailey planned to get Boom Boom to open up and tell him where he’d hid the payroll money.
The Hook, who had stolen and hidden the antique challis, had a girlfriend who was a chorus girl who moonlighted as a call girl, too. They were childhood sweethearts and very devoted to each other. Bailey just knew if the Hook was going to tell anyone where he’d hidden the jewel encrusted golden challis, it would be Louisa, his childhood sweetheart.
Three other targets for Bailey’s scheme had to be discarded as choices. Larry, the Snake, Gambone was suddenly transferred out of the jail to a federal penitentiary, taking him out of Bailey’s reach. Pete, Bulldog, Jones was reputed to have hidden a collection of rare coins and stamps which he had stolen from a dealer, the night before the collections were set to be auctioned off by the benefactors of a wealthy man’s estate. But, Bull Dog it turned out, never received any mail, not one letter from anybody, which left him invulnerable to Bailey’s rip-off scheme. Bailey actually felt sad for the guy.
The last target had to be discarded, too. Alfred Ace Taylor, had family that was very devoted to visiting him regularly. Visitors could expose Bailey’s scheme. Visitors were the one thing Bailey was afraid of.
To pull his scheme off, Bailey first started just practicing and practicing, for months, copying the handwriting styles of the letter writers. As his first test, he just copied the original author’s letters word for word, eventually slipping his letters into the original envelopes just to see if his forgeries would be detected. When they weren’t detected, he slowly and gradually began to alter the letters contents. He added his own extra lines and phrases to the letters, setting up his schemes. Bailey started making up sad stories, pity me stories and tales of hardship that only money could fix.
Rocko was the easiest to get to take the bate. Bailey sent Rocko a letter supposedly from Rocko’s daughter stating that Rocko’s little grandson had fallen ill and the little boy needed an operation that his daughter just couldn’t afford. The very next day, Rocko sent her a letter telling her where he’d hidden the 60,000 dollars he’d stolen. Bailey snatched the letter.
Boom Boom got a letter from his mom saying how there had been an accident, but not to worry cause she was okay. His mom had left the toaster oven plugged in and running all night. There was a fire. The family’s trailer home was gone. She was staying with neighbors nearby for now, but she would have to move into a state-run nursing home in a few days.
The next day, Boom Boom wrote his mother back, telling her where he’d hidden the tuxedo factories payroll money he’d stolen and even drew her a detailed map as to how to find it. Bailey stole the letter and the map.
Bailey wrote the Hook a letter addressed from his chorus girl girlfriend. The letter stated she’d been in a car accident and she needed money for plastic surgery.
The Hook wrote his girl back a letter telling her not to worry. He would tell her exactly where he’d hidden the jewel encrusted gold challis. He said he would give her detailed instructions as to a specific pawnbroker friend of his she could bring the challis to. The pawn broker friend would take care of melting down the challis and fencing the gold and the jewels separately. The Hook told his girl, Louisa, that he loved her and to prove it all she had to do was come to the prison to visit him and he would tell her where he hid the challis then give her the fences name to take it to and where to find him.
Bailey tore the letter up in disgust. This was no good. Bailey wrote the Hook another letter saying how ugly she was. How her face was scarred and burned and how she just couldn’t bare to come to the prison or let him see her this way. Couldn’t he just write her a letter and tell her where the challis was hidden. Then, she could come visit him after her plastic surgery and show him how pretty she was.
Bailey had to wait a few days to allow for the time it would have taken Hook’s letter to reach his girlfriend by mail and to allow time for his girlfriend’s letter, the one Bailey had written, to come back by mail. He also had to forge the post office marking that they stamp across the stamps to make the letter appear like it had really been sent by the U.S. mail from Indiana where the Hook’s girl lived.
The day after the Hook received Bailey’s forged letter from his Louisa, the Hook wrote back. “No, it’s too risky to send you the details in the mail. You must come here to the jail to get the instructions in person. I love you and will always love you no matter what you look like.”
“No!” Bailey shouted ripping up the letter. “Damn!”
Tony, another prisoner who worked in the mailroom, came running around the corner. “What’s the matter, Bails? You okay?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it, I just knocked my knee against the leg of that desk over there.” He lied. “It hurt like the dickens is all. Sorry, I alarmed you.”
“Hey, man cheer up. At least you’re getting out of this joint tomorrow. And today is your last day sorting jail mail. Tomorrow, you’re a free man.” He sat down on the bench next to Bailey. “Tell me, you got a chick waiting for you out there?”
“Nah, no one’s waiting for me.”
“Well, don’t worry. I bet the chicks will be hanging all over you in no time.” He punched Bailey playfully in the shoulder then stood. “I better get back to my station before the guard comes back.. Remember, man, stay out of trouble. I don’t want to see you right back in here. And, good luck, bro.”
“Thanks, Tony.”
The next morning Bailey was allowed extra time in the shower to spruce himself up since he was getting out that afternoon. The day before he had mailed an envelope to his lawyer. Inside was a letter and another sealed envelope. The letter told his lawyer not to open the smaller sealed envelope, but that she should hold onto it for him until he came to her office to pick it up.
Inside the little sealed envelope were the instructions Rocko had written to his daughter telling her where she would find the $60,000 he’d hidden. As well as Boom Boom’s instructions and treasure map he’d sent to his mom showing her where she could find his buried half a million dollars.
Lying in his bunk, Bailey stared at his early release notice. “One million dollars you’re costing me.” He crumpled up the paper then tossed it in the toilet in the corner. One more week or two tops, was all Bailey needed to con the Hook into telling him where he’d hidden the precious jewel covered chalice worth a cool million dollars or more.
At 11:40 am, Bailey and Randy Robinson, another prisoner who was also scheduled to be released that day, were dressed in their civilian clothes. As prison tradition would have it, they were led out into the yard where a busload of newly arriving prisoners were being unloaded. Bailey and Robinson were made to stand facing the new inmates while the Warden addressed them. The Warden gave them the usual welcome to prison scare speech, ending with, “fly straight and you won’t have any trouble.”
The Warden turned towards the two prisoners who were being released. “Mr. Bailey here and Mr. Robinson are being released today. Bailey’s served fourteen years, Robinson nine. Those are long sentences. Both of these prisoners have exemplary records. They never, not once in all that time, caused us any trouble. And, that is why, with my recommendations, the parole board has approved their early release. I remember when they first came to us. They looked a lot like you crumbs. They were rough around the edges. They had chips on their shoulders, were smart mouthed. But we turned them around. We cured them. Cleansed them of the evil that was lurking inside them, making them do these bad things. And now, these two rehabilitated men are ready to try once again to live in the real world among civilized people. Like these two, you also will soon be broken and cured of your rebellion.”
The Warden stood in front of the squat, muscular, slightly balding, soon to be ex-con Randy Robinson. “Robinson, do you have any tips that you would like to pass on to these new inmates that might help make their stay here go a little easier?”
“Uh… always listen to the Warden?”
“Yes, Robinson, very good. Go on.” The Warden smiled.
“Uh…and your guards? Always listen to your guards.”
“Sound advise, anything else?”
“Uh…don’t cause no trouble for nobody and you’ll be okay.”
The Warden stepped closer in front of Robinson. He stared him in the eyes. With both hands, the Warden suddenly grabbed a hold of the front of Robinson’s shirt. “Now, Robinson, I got some advice for you, for when you’re on the outside.” He pulled Robinson closer. “Don’t you cause no trouble for nobody and you’ll be alright!” The Warden let go of his shirt, took a step towards Bailey, then stopped, then turned back to stare at Robinson. “Do we understand each other?”
Robinson nodded.
“I can’t hear you prisoner 2134787!”
“Yes sir! Warden sir!”
The Warden smacked Robinson across the face. “I don’t want to see you wind up back in my jail, boy.” He shook his finger at him. “If I do, you’ll be sorry, real sorry.”
“No sir! Warden sir!”
The Warden smacked him again. “Get him out of here!” The guard grabbed Robinson by the elbow then led him away.
The Warden stepped in front of Bailey and looked the tall skinny red-haired man in the eyes. “You have any advise you’d like to give my new prisoners?” the Warden motioned with his outstretched hands towards the line of new inmates.
Bailey slid his right foot back, shifting all his weight onto his toes. He cocked his arm back and swung, leaning in with his shoulder and all his might. It was a combination roundhouse punch with a slight upper cut angle. The Warden turned right into the punch POW!! Bailey’s fist collided with his chin. The Warden was lifted up onto the very tips of his toes, then he was flying backward airborne. His back bowed in a deep arch.
For a second, the whole prison was in shock, everyone just stared as the Warden descended landing flat on his back, sending up a cloud of dust. From the barred cell windows arose a loud roaring cheer that sounded like it might just crumble the prison walls right to the ground. Bailey saw smiles breakout on the faces of the new inmates.
Two guards grabbed Bailey by each of his arms. “Are you crazy? Just five more minutes and you would have been a free man!”
The cheering continued as the guards led Bailey back toward the inside of the prison. Bailey looked back over his shoulder towards the prison front gate. He saw Robinson shrug the guard’s arm off of his elbow so he could join in the clapping and cheering.
From a barred cell window one prisoner yelled down. “Hey, Bailey, tell us, how’d it feel to punch the Warden?”
“Like a million dollars!”
The prisoners continued to cheer, repeating. “Like a million bucks!”
“Like a million dollar jewel encrusted chalice.” Bailey marveled.

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